The Open North Foundation, which was launched to help the region’s small businesses through the Covid-19 crisis, is set to celebrate its first birthday in rude health.

Despite being formed less than a year ago, fundraising has made steady progress and raised tens of thousands of pounds to help company struggles caused by the pandemic.

Launched under the leadership of Peterlee-based international businessman Richard Swart, of the Berger Group, the Foundation has made a string of grants to hard-hit businesses across the region but is looking to do more.

Richard said: “We have to give special thanks as always to our wonderful North East business community for cash, in-kind donations and service offerings.

“As a board, we are satisfied with progress to date but we must do more due to the ongoing challenges.”

The ONF has had more than 100 applications for help since being launched and has provided important support to 10 businesses with several more close to finalisation.

Currently, the Foundation has the resources to make around 40 more grants.

Richard said: “We remain firmly committed to not spending a penny raised on anything other than qualifying beneficiaries.

“This means of course we have zero costs, overheads or budgets.

“Everything we do, and is done for us, is done for free in the interests of the North East.”
The foundation has welcomed Tania Cooper MBE, managing director of Steel Benders UK in Middlesbrough, as a new director and also welcomed several new Ambassadors.

They are:
• Alan Ferguson OBE, director of Ferguson’s Transport, who has also made a £5,000 donation;
• Paul McEldon, CEO of the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC);
• John Adamson, CEO of Ramside Estates, who has made a significant cash donation and offered free use of venues and light refreshments;
• And Warren Harrison, dean of Teesside University Business School.

The Foundation has also confirmed a strategic partnership with Teesside University Business School, similar to that of Northumbria University, with both welcoming each other’s participation, a fine example of the north and south of the region working together for the common good.

Like Northumbria, Teesside donated £10,000 as well as a range of free courses for qualifying beneficiaries.

The foundation plans to hold a 1st birthday celebration event at the Ramside Hall Hotel in mid-July.

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