19 February 2008 – Staff at O2’s office in Leeds will be raising funds to help expand a local youth project with St Luke’s CARES over the next year. Since the start of the year O2 staff at the Arlington Business Centre have been nominating charities and voting for which one they want to support throughout the year. Four groups were short-listed – Hands On, Middleton Marrauders Rugby Club, Wigton Moor Primary School and St Luke’s CARES. During the past 10 days over 820 O2 staff voted and St Luke’s CARES was the winner with 33%. St Luke’s CARES currently operate a Mobile Youth Provision, on behalf of Leeds City Council’s Inner south Leeds Area committee, which has funded and commissioned this provision which helps around 500 young people a month interact through music, sport, arts and crafts. As a result of the O2 support the project can look to replicate this work in Outer South areas such as Morley, Rothwell, Tingley, Robin Hood and East Ardsley. Thanks to a phone amnesty, which saw staff buying old and used phone handsets, by O2’s Value Development Team last week the team in Leeds have already raised over £1100, well on the way towards the £15,000 target. Mark Nichols, who heads up the O2 fundraising Community Crew on site, said: “I am delighted that we will be supporting St Luke’s CARES over the coming year and I know the staff are excited about getting on with raising as much cash as they can for the project. Working with a local project makes the result of fundraising even more special, but we are also looking forward to becoming directly involved in the project as well. “Deciding which project to work with was extremely hard and I would like to wish all the finalists every success. I am sure the £1000 donation we have given to each runner-up organisation will help them towards making their plans a reality.” Louise Megson, of St Luke’s CARES, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that O2 have decided to support their local community. The provision of a Youth Bus for the young people in the hard to reach areas of Leeds will be invaluable. The young people, the staff and the volunteers are all looking forward to getting our teeth into making this relationship a great success for everyone. Through this provision and many other volunteering opportunities within the local community, we hope to be able to work with O2 staff, encouraging them to participate at grass roots level. Volunteers make a great difference to the lives of young people, bringing new skills to the front line teams and being great role models, particularly in disadvantaged areas such as ours where many of our young people suffer from low aspirations. The decision to support a local project marks a step change in the way O2 raises funds for charity. For the past three years the company have worked with a single UK charity partner but decided to give staff at its five main sites across the country the opportunity to raise cash for a charity of their choice, in their local area. The Big Site Project aims to raise over £15,000 for St Luke’s CARES and is part of the wider It’s Your Community programme, which allows groups, organisations and charities to apply for awards ranging from £100 to £1000 to make a difference within communities. As part of the decision process each of the runner-up projects were given a £1,000 It’s Your Community award as recognition of their project. For every online and text vote cast O2 gave a donation of 50p to the chosen project. – ends –

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