Two community projects in the Isles of Scilly are the latest to benefit from a cash injection from the Steamship Group’s popular Community Fund.

Donations of £1,250 to St Agnes Island Hall and £300 to the Isles of Scilly U3A have already made a big difference to the people who use them.

The community hall on St Agnes paid for wifi to be installed and paid the monthly costs for two years with the money it received, and the U3A bought a laptop to be used by its members.

The hall is used as a workspace on a daily basis by businesses based on St Agnes, and is also rented out to organisations including schools, Isles of Scilly Council and the Sea Bird Recovery Project.

TV presenter Ray Mears, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s patron for 2018, visited the hall on a recent trip to St Agnes and said visiting projects supported by the Community Fund was a highlight of his stay.

Emily Sladen, a textile designer who is one of the six businesses based at the hall, said: “The wifi has transformed my business – it’s not just about being able to get online to manage orders and deliveries and market my work, it means I can take card payments when visitors to the hall or people attending a workshop want to make a purchase.

“Before, I’d often lose out on sales worth hundreds of pounds, as people wouldn’t be carrying large amounts of cash so if they visited me here and wanted to buy something, I couldn’t help them. Being able to take card payments through the wifi has made the most enormous difference.”

Trish Peacock, who runs a small craft business from the workshops in the hall, said: “The wifi has already made a massive difference to me. I can show customers yarn online from so they can choose what they need for a weaving order. I can take card payments without having to stand outside looking for a 4G signal and I can also do my book keeping immediately online. I can also post social media whilst I’m working and keep up to date with emails as I work.

“I think as the season rolls in, visitors will be delighted to be able to access everything they take for granted on the mainland. I’m really grateful that the community fund was available – it’s making a difference both economically and socially.”

The U3A, one of the smallest in the country, used the money to buy a laptop, which is currently being used by its members for an online Italian course and will ensure a better quality and variety of activities in future.

Sam Hicks, Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s Community Fund, said: “I’m delighted that the fund has been able to support these two Scillonian projects. St Agnes Island Hall and the IOS U3A are valuable resources for our communities and I hope that these IT investments help to increase the good work both do on the islands.”

St Agnes Hall and U3A are two of five worthy good cause which shared more than £3,500 in the first round of Community Fund donations in 2018.

The fund, which had up to £30,000 to give away this financial year, was launched in 2016 and is part of an estimated £1 million that the Steamship Group returns to the community every year through subsidised travel for islanders, NHS flights, sponsorships and charitable donations.

In its first year the Community Fund awarded £23,000 to 18 different projects ranging from a new marquee for the Isles of Scilly Brownies and Guides Group, to a new CCTV camera to cover a blind spot at Cape Cornwall for the National Coastwatch Institution.

Bids to the Community Fund will open again later this year to voluntary groups or charities, schools and education establishments, community clubs or societies, and individuals undertaking not-for-profit projects for the benefit of the wider community.

Full details, eligibility criteria and application forms are now available from the Steamship Group’s website. All projects are judged by members of an independent panel