WINNING the top prize in last year’s Airbus and Leader community awards “changed things completely” for a Wrexham-based arts trust.

Out of dozens of entries and with thousands of votes cast, Leader readers selected the Stiwt Arts Trust in Rhos as the recipient of 2017’s £3,500 award.

This was the third year of the partnership between the aerospace company based in Broughton and the Leader in which time £30,000 has been handed out to good causes across Flintshire, Wrexham, Chester and Ellesmere Port.

Paul McKinley, head of plant, speaking at this year’s awards held in May said all 10 finalists had a “positive effect on their communities” and hosting the annual awards was a “highlight of the year” for Airbus.

Susan Perry, group editor for Newsquest North Wales, said the awards had become a vital part of the Leader’s involvement within the community and the forthcoming 2018’s awards were all set to be even bigger and better than before.

She said: “Every year I am humbled by the effort and time people voluntarily give to help others.

“I urge all readers who are involved in community groups, whether they be schools, social clubs, sport clubs etc to make sure they don’t miss out on the chance to win cash for their good cause.”

Full details of how to get involved will be printed in Monday’s Leader.

Rhys Davies, general manager at the Stiwt who were last year’s overall winners, explained what the cash award meant to them.

He said: “When we won we were absolutely in shock.

“We are planning to put the money to good use by improving the smaller room at the Stwit to enable it to be used for corporate events, conferences and meetings.

“We also plan to install a new projector, screen, sound system and lighting system. This will mean we can put on smaller shows.

“I would definitely encourage people to apply for the award as the money we have won has made a real difference to us. More community groups will be able to use us once the work is complete.”

At the Neuro Therapy Centre in Saltney communications officer Melanie Kane said the money had helped them with their exercise programme.

She said: “As well as much welcomed money it has also raised people’s awareness of what we do here. For people to vote for us and to meet other groups at the presentation ceremony was fantastic.

“We are currently fundraising to carry out some refurbishment so we can run more classes.”

Charriots, based in Wrexham, which provides transport to those who have difficulty using public services, won the £1,000 prize.

The money helped towards the purchase of a new vehicle.

Co-ordinator George Greenfields said the service they offer is unique as they only transport one person at a time and not just to hospital or doctor’s appointments.

He said: “We give a very personal service. The driver has one passenger to look after so they can devote all of their attention.

“We try and give people their independence by taking them to meet family or friends for meals or out shopping. We want to help people have a social life and this money has helped us do just that.”

BIRD is a small local charity that has helped children and adults with conditions such as autism, learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, stroke and acquired brain injury for 35 years.

The charity provides a programme of rehabilitative therapy to bring greater independence to the individual and hope and support for the whole family.

The money from the Airbus and Leader Community Awards was used to fund the initial assessment cost for 10 families who are seeking support.

One of the families supported over the last year is Rachel Harry, who has now completed treatment.

She suffered a brain injury while giving birth to her daughter in 2012.

The initial prognosis doctors gave was she would not survive or if she did, she would be in vegetative state.

Since starting the BIRD programme of therapy, Rachel has improved beyond everyone’s expectations.

She is now more stable on her feet as her balance has now improved, she can now feed herself with a fork, is more independent and has more awareness of her surroundings.

Helen Schielke, charity manager said: “Through the awards we have been able to begin that journey of hope for more families. The process to apply for the awards was very easy and accessible and we would encourage any local charity to consider applying.

“Thank you to everyone at Airbus and the Leader for helping us to help more families in the local area.”

At Share in Mold they assist refugees and the homeless.

They have had a busy year sending aid out to Greece.

Ann Jones, volunteer and team leader at Share said: “We are planning to use the money we won on buying weighing scales.

“They will be a tremendous help to us as it will enable us to weigh large boxes before we send them out.

“If there is any money left over then next on the list is a washing machine.

“We cannot thank Airbus/the Leader enough.”

At the Countess of Chester Babygrow Appeal which was launched to raise money to build a new Neonatal Unit at the Countess of Chester hospital, which will provide better facilities and a more spacious environment for the babies and their families at the hospital in Chester, Hanna Clarke said: ”We were thrilled to receive £500 from the Airbus Community Awards as a runner up back in May. It is a fantastic initiative from the Leader and Airbus which allows many charity’s and community groups to benefit.

“I would definitely recommend charities and community groups to apply and if you are lucky enough to be selected really get behind the initiative and get all your supporters involved.”

Ian Butler, trustee of Mancot Library, said they used their money on buying new books.

He said: ”The money we won was put to very good use. The council no longer supplies books so we try and buy the top 30 books every month to make sure we are up to date.”

Lots of clubs are held at the community run facility including a choir, art classes , photography, French lessons and a soon to start Knit and Natter group.

At Hinderton School, Ellesmere Port, the £500 meant a squeeze machine could be acquired.

Liz Clutton, business manager at the school which has pupils with autism, said it has proved to be a popular piece of equipment with the children in their sensory room.

She said: ”The children love it. They slide through the rollers and love the sense of pressure and weight it puts on them.

“Ideally we would like to refurbish our whole sensory room but this piece of equipment is enjoyed.”

A £2,500 grant was awarded to Ysgol Maesglas in Greenfield.

Lynsey Woodhouse, family liason officer at the school said the money has and is continuing to make a massive difference.

She said: ”We are using the money for our Family Learning Signature project. We ask families what they struggle with.

“For example a family that doesn’t like taking risks, we buy them vouchers for adventure play area they can attend together, families that don’t do arts and crafts a voucher to get them crafting.

“It’s all about getting families together to learn together and so far has proved to be a huge success we are planning to roll it out across the school.”

At Your Space in Wrexham the money has been used to help sustain the Saturday morning club.

The group runs two sessions every fortnight for autistic children aged between 5-16 years old.

Rachel Hancock, charity manager said: ”The money has made a huge difference. The Saturday morning clubs are held at Maesgwyn Community Centre and are so popular we have a waiting list.

“We are able to utilise the park outside and the children are able interact in a social environment.

“We would like to say a huge thank you to the Leader and Airbus as the money has made a real difference.”