THE National Lottery is known for making millionaires. But it has also enriched the lives of people in other ways. The Lottery has ploughed £40m into Hartlepool projects since the first draw 20 years ago. TRACY WALKER reports.
COMMUNITY groups and individuals have millions of reasons to celebrate as a funding body reaches a milestone anniversary.
Since its first draw on November 19, 1994, the National Lottery has invested more than £40m into Hartlepool projects.
From helping to restore a major tourist attraction and boosting green spaces, to assisting domestic violence victims and a war veteran – the money has been life-changing for many.
In the past 20 years, 731 grants have been awarded to individuals and organisations across the town, helping to change lives and transform communities.
The largest-ever lottery grant in Hartlepool – £4m – was allocated from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), towards the £10.5m restoration of the historic ship HMS Trincomalee.
The oldest British warship afloat is now a tourist attraction helping to bring visitors to the area.
Since the restoration, which started in 2001, it has had more than 1.15m visitors.
David McKnight, HMS Trincomalee Trust general manager, said: “It’s fair to say, without the HLF’s significant contribution, I think we would have struggled to restore the ship.
“We are immensely grateful and just delighted that the restoration was such a good quality one.
“HLF said it’s believed to be one of the finest composite restorations in the world.
“It’s very highly thought of by the HLF and even to this day, they still bring people down here when they are in the region, to show people the Trincomalee.
“Obviously they are immensely proud of it, and it’s something we should all be proud of.
“One of the key reasons we wanted to bring the ship here was it was something the town could generate its economy around, and it’s certainly playing its part.”
The first National Lottery grant in the town was £38,290 awarded to Grayfield Bowling Club for its new clubhouse, which opened in 1996.
Frances Longmoor, ladies secretary at the bowls club, said the grant was a big help after the previous venue burned down.
She added: “The members at the time got half the money from the Lottery and they held tea dances and different things.
“It’s a beautiful clubhouse.
“The members would have had to have worked twice as hard without the Lottery grant.
“A lot of clubs wouldn’t be available without Lottery funding.”
Ward Jackson Park has also won funding, helping to regenerate its facilities, including bandstand, lake, sculptures, fountain and play area.
Deborah Jefferson, a countryside officer for Hartlepool Borough Council which works closely with Friends of Ward Jackson Park, said without the lottery funding, the Place in the Park would not exist either.
She added: “It’s been really crucial to making the park what it is today.
“It’s created that wonderful community space for people in Hartlepool to enjoy.
“Some of the Victorian splendour has been rejuvenated.”
And family charity Hartlepool PATCH was saved from closure with a £244,199 lottery grant in 2012.
Other Lottery-funded projects in the area include Hartlepool and East Durham MIND, Hartlepool Women’s Aid (Harbour), Red Dreams, Owton Fens Community Association (OFCA) and Hartlepool Library Service.
A council spokesman said on behalf of the library service: “The Lottery-funded scheme to equip libraries throughout the town with computers for the public to use has been a huge success since it was launched in 2002.
“Known as The People’s Network, it remains an integral part of the Library Service with around 5,000 users very month.
“Despite the increase in ownership of home computers and mobile technology, the demand for access to the public computers is as great as ever.
“In particular, usage has increased significantly over the past 18 months reflecting the Government’s move to accessing information online.
“The interest in family history has also had an impact on use especially with access to online services such as Ancestry.com and Find my Past, which are available for free in all our libraries.”
The smallest town grant was £300 to a Second World War veteran from Hartlepool towards travel costs for a commemorative visit to France.
Jackie O’Sullivan, from the National Lottery, said: “In 20 years, The National Lottery has helped transform life in Hartlepool for the better, creating iconic cultural landmarks, empowering communities and developing world-class sporting talent.
“National Lottery funding has improved people’s health, preserved our rich heritage and created a better future for all.”
National Lottery players have raised more than £32bn for arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport and voluntary projects across the UK.
More than 3,600 millionaires have been created and over £53bn has been paid out in prizes across the UK.