The Percy Hedley Foundation is to receive a £15,000 Community Award from the Freemasons following an unprecedented public vote.

The charity was one of six to be nominated by Freemasons in Northumberland, with local people voting to decide the level of their Award. They were part of 178,801 people who voted across England and Wales.

The Community Awards are a major part of Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary celebrations. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is distributing £3 million to 300 charities across the country, with the public vote deciding on the range of Awards from £4,000 to £25,000.

The Foundation plans to use the grant to develop a forest school at Northern Counties School in Jesmond, which provides education for over 90 children with a hearing impairment or visual impairment, profound and multiple learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder.

The outdoor space will provide a unique learning environment which will enable children to develop their self-confidence, language and physical skills and help relieve stress and anxiety.

Jo Allen, Head of Northern Counties School, said: “It will be marvellous to have a dedicated forest school area to teach our students in a new and exciting way that adds to their personal development and learning.

“The grant of £15,000 which we have been awarded following the public vote is hugely important. We are very grateful to all of our friends who took the trouble to support us.”

The Masonic Charitable Foundation obtains all of its funding from Freemasons, their families and friends.  It is estimated that half of Freemasonry’s total charitable expenditure of over £33m goes to charities that help people in communities across the country.

Brian Wood from Northumberland Freemasons said: “We are delighted so many people voted in Northumberland. The Percy Hedley Foundation was one of 6 charities nominated by local Freemasons and I know they will use their £15,000 grant to continue with their outstanding work.”

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