A BLACKBIRD Leys charity is helping make DIY more affordable thanks to a £8,400 grant from the Gannett Foundation.

RAW workshop provides employment, training and volunteering opportunities to people across Oxfordshire with learning disabilities, mental health problems or those from a disadvantaged background.

Last year, the charity won funding from the Oxford Mail’s parent company Gannett Media, which has recently launched its latest search for charities looking for a funding boost of up to £10,000.

The money was used to pay for the modernisation of their workshop, which produces garden furniture and other items, as well as set up a reclaimed wood shop.

Managing director Rick Mower said: “It means we can now also train people in retail and customer service, which is a massive growing industry in Oxford and somewhere those who come to us with great communication skills thrive.”

He added: “At any one time, we employ around 30 people and the shop has meant we can take on another 10 people a year.”

And the benefits of the grant are being felt more widely than just those employed by the workshop.

Mr Mower explained: “There are lots of shows on television about DIY and improving your home but for low income families it can be really expensive and put it out of reach.

“But by using reclaimed wood that can cut the cost by around 30% and makes it a lot more achievable.”

He added: “That means the money has not just had an impact for the people we employ but the wider Blackbird Leys community.”

The charity applied in last year's funding round and was one of five charities in Oxfordshire given £30,000 to fund everything from outings for young carers to refurbishing a play area.

Mr Mower said: “I would encourage other charities to apply because it’s a simple and fast process, which you can see have a direct impact really quickly.”

He added: “It’s also really nice to be funded by a company with strong links to the community.”

Each year the Gannett Foundation sifts through hundreds of applications to find local causes most in need of help.

This year the criteria has been expanded to include one-day or limited-time events.

See oxfordmail.co.uk for full criteria.

All applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday, October 9. They will only be accepted if submitted on an approved entry form, available from oxfordmail.co.uk/news/community/gannettfoundation.

These must be sent with supporting evidence to gannettapplications@nqo.com or by post to Oxford Mail, Newsquest Oxfordshire and Wiltshire, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0EJ.