South Shields FC Foundation has received a significant boost in the form of a £100,000 donation from club chairman Geoff Thompson.

The announcement is the latest in a series of contributions made by Mr Thompson in the last four years to create his dream of a fan-owned Football League club for the town.

The Foundation is the club’s charitable arm that delivers around £1million worth of social and community impact each year across a range of community-based health and well-being activities.

In July 2019 it formed a partnership with Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare to secure the future of the Welfare – which was facing certain closure – in doing so safeguarding six local jobs and helping to preserve the town’s mining heritage.

Head of SSFC Foundation Steve Camm said: “We are obviously absolutely delighted with the generous donation.

“It will help us to continue to grow and develop the work of the Foundation and further increase our social and community impact.

“The Foundation is a registered charity but we are absolutely determined to be self financing through the activities we deliver and this donation will ensure that we can invest in the things we need to guarantee that.

“Geoff has always been a supporter of the Foundation and its work. It is consistent with his values and determination to invest in the club and the town.

“His generosity will benefit hundreds of people locally and help us to thrive as a community-based charitable foundation. We are incredibly humbled by the generous donation.”

The purpose of the Foundation is to promote community participation in healthy activities by people of all ages and abilities. It sits neatly alongside the club’s elite sporting programmes at first-team, ladies and academy level, broadening the offer and widening the participation levels.

The Foundation runs 20 junior football teams and a number of community-based programmes for children from three years old, including its flagship ‘Thinkers and Movers’ programme for three to five-year-olds, ‘Mini Mariners’ for five and six-year-olds, and its most recent addition, the Friday night ‘Skills School’ delivered by some of the first-team players.

But it’s not just about football.

The Foundation’s schools programme is now entering its second year and is fully booked.

Developed by Foundation Programme Delivery Lead Nathan Kew, the programme is being delivered in 11 primary and nursery schools focusing on literacy, numeracy, movement, resilience and social and emotional development.

Our popular schools matchday experience programme is also now in its second year and has seen first-team players visit over 30 schools, with more than 2,500 children visiting the ground to cheer the team on as our next generation of supporters.

Since its formation the Foundation has created or safeguarded nine jobs, two apprenticeships and created 40 regular volunteering opportunities which offer opportunities for qualifications and development.

The recent developments at Harton Welfare have now added bowls, cricket, junior cricket, adult learning, music and fitness activities for adults to the list of activities it supports that help to improve peoples’ health and well-being. The latest addition was McKenzie Dance, which started operating from Harton Welfare in January 2020.

South Shields FC chairman Geoff Thompson said: “The growth and development of the Foundation over the last two years has been exponential, in parallel with the progression of the first-team and academies and consistent with our ambition to create a Football League-ready community club that the whole town can be proud of.

“First and foremost I am making an investment in the town.

“The Foundation creates about £11 worth of social and community impact for local people for every £1 it spends and so I wanted to support and encourage that kind of impact.

“We want to reach the Football League as a community club and the Foundation has an important role to play in ensuring we make a significant contribution to the local economy and local peoples’ health and well-being.”

South Shields midfielders Adam Thurston and Luke Daly went back to school this week as the club’s charitable arm continued to make a difference in the community.

Adam and Luke joined the Head of SSFC Foundation, Steve Camm, at St Oswald’s RC Primary School in South Shields to offer all pupils at the school an opportunity to enjoy a matchday experience at Mariners Park.

The children will be our guests at the much-anticipated derby match against Morpeth Town on Saturday, November 30, with a selection of them set to be flag bearers ahead of the game.

The players dropped into a school assembly to deliver the news before fielding questions from eager pupils for more than half an hour.

The schools initiative kicked off last November and has been a huge success over the last 12 months.

We have visited 32 schools and spoken to over 5,000 children, almost 1,500 of whom have already enjoyed a matchday experience at Mariners Park.

Last year we particularly focused on those in Years 5 and 6 – or the Class of 23, as we dubbed them.

The success of last season’s initiative prompted us to extend the project this time around, with players now speaking to entire schools and offering every pupil the opportunity to watch a game.

Steve Camm has been at every one of those school visits, and is delighted with how the initiative has been received.

He said: “I remember the first school we visited, Westoe Crown, very well because we went in with Blair Adams, Dan Wright and Ursene Mouanda and weren’t sure what to expect.

“We asked the children if any of them had a question and all 180 of them put their hand up.

“From that point we thought it was definitely something we wanted to be involved in, and it has been a great success so far.

“The excitement and welcome we’ve received in each of the schools has been absolutely amazing.

“The questions asked, from five-year-olds up to 11-year-olds, have been brilliant and it has been a pleasure to be in the schools.

“Every school has met our challenge to ask us a question we haven’t been asked before and the players always enjoy visiting and giving something back to the community.

“I must also mention the behaviour of the children, which has been exemplary everywhere we’ve been.”

Last season, a selection of children at each of the schools visited were also invited to The Word, in South Shields town centre, to write and record match reports based on their experiences.

We are working on providing something similar for the pupils this season as the initiative continues to go from strength to strength.

We look forward to welcoming pupils from St Oswald’s to Mariners Park on November 30 and hope they enjoy their experience.

We are absolutely delighted to welcome Jak Lewis as our latest member of SSFC Foundation staff.

Jak, 16, has taken up the role of Apprentice as part of the ground staff team. He will work alongside Gary Crutwell maintaining Mariners Park and Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare.

Jak is studying for a Horticulture Operative Level 2 Award in association with our partners Sunderland College as part of a two-year course. It will see him learn new skills about the maintenance and care of the facilities.

As part of the apprenticeship Jak also has to participate in other “off the job” skills and so the Foundation will support him to gain his coaching qualifications and he will co-deliver some of our football activities.

The former St Wilfrid’s RC College pupil – who lives within walking distance of Mariners Park – has helped out at the club as a volunteer for almost two years.

Players and staff quickly took him to their hearts and their respect for him was underlined when they clubbed together to buy him a new bike last November after his was stolen.

The moment was captured on video and went on to be viewed hundreds of thousands of times around the world.

Since then, Jak has become an even more integral part of the club and has now got his reward.

Foundation Manager Steve Camm said: “It’s our pleasure to welcome Jak to the team and we know he will prove to be an invaluable asset to the Foundation and the club moving forward.

“Since July we have been working in partnership with Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare to secure its future.

“As we increase the activities on site, having Jak to work alongside Gary will be crucial.

“In total three football pitches, a cricket square, a bowling green, three 3G pitches and all the ancillary areas across the two sites will require constant care and attention to ensure they are of the highest possible standard and capable of supporting increased usage.

“Jak has been volunteering at the club now for a number of years.

“His commitment, work ethic and willingness are second to none and it’s our pleasure to be able to create a progression route for him into employment.

“Jak is highly thought of by everyone at the club.

“Supporters may remember a story where he had his bike stolen and first-team players clubbed together to buy him a new one. Well now he’s got a tractor!”

SSFC Foundation is the charitable arm of South Shields Football Club and its aim is to improve the health and well-being of the local community.

The Foundation recently linked up with Harton and Westoe Miners Welfare, with the two charities collaborating to secure the future of the Welfare and create an opportunity to grow and extend the community impact of both organisations.

The Foundation is now offering its support to the day-to-day operational management of the site with a particular focus on increasing its financial viability.