Sid Valley groups offered KOF grants

Sidmouth open evening will explain how to apply for Keith Owen Fund grants for community projects

THOSE with money to give away usually keep a low profile.

But those who administer the Keith Owen Fund, set up three years ago by Sid Vale Association, after a member left it around �2 million for the benefit of community projects in the Sid Valley and Salcombe Regis, have planned an open evening to explain how the fund operates.

Invitations have been sent to a range of organisations and commerce that might benefit or help others to benefit from grants from the Keith Owen Fund, which has already pledged �250,000 to more than 50 organisations and plans to award grants totalling �100,000 a year.

Fund chairman, the Reverend Handel Bennett, said the open meeting at Kennaway House on Tuesday, September 20, would “demonstrate its purposes, priorities and process, with time for questions and answers”.

Keith Owen, a Devonian from Totnes, who spent many years in Canada working, even taking Canadian citizenship, chose to live in his mother’s Sidmouth flat after returning to the UK.

In 2007 he discovered he had less than eight weeks to live and chose the SVA to bequeath his money to.

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Handel said: “Keith phoned me as SVA chairman to say he wished to give some money to the SVA. We knew he was one of our 2,500 members, but we had not met before.”

Handel and treasurer Neville Staddon met with Keith and discovered his admiration for the conservation work the association had done since 1846, and that the charity depended on voluntary help.

“To my surprise, he said he wanted to give us his life savings,” said Handel. “The capital from his retirement fund was to be placed in permanent endowment.”

Handel said Keith wanted to aid schemes to encourage voluntary action, adding: “Keith urged us to ‘think outside the box’ and to think big. He wanted to encourage new ideas. Projects which would enhance and sustain the ambience and way of life still recognised in Sidmouth and its surroundings.”

He also wanted to encourage philanthropy among SVA members and residents in order to conserve and preserve all the community holds dear.

John Townsend, a member of the fund committee, said: “In the last three years we have made awards to groups, both large and small.

“We have assisted two Sidmouth scouts to have a fantastic life-affirming experience this year at the scout jamboree in Sweden.”

He said other awards, which have ranged from �70.50 to nearly �18,000, have helped with the regeneration of the Ham playground, create a wildlife discovery area at All Saints Infants School, send other pupils to a residential environment awareness course and made significant awards to the Sidmouth Herald’s campaigns.

“We have supported sports clubs, the conservation of musical skills in folk song and dance, and...we are offering a bursary for an apprentice to work with the National Trust and the SVA,” he said. “Ninety minutes at our open meeting could make a difference to many.”

Anyone wishing to attend, from 6.30pm for a 7pm start, should contact Barry Jones (01395) 514236. Those unable to get there can download applications forms at