COMMUNITY groups in south and west Dorset have another reason to celebrate this Christmas after securing grants in the annual round of donations from your local newspaper.

The Weymouth-based sailing for the disabled charity M.V. Freedom, the Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis, and Dorchester-based Dorset Reading Partners have all been successful in the Gannett Foundation UK programme 2017.

The Gannett Foundation is the charitable arm of Gannett Co Inc., the parent company of Newsquest Media Group, one of the UK’s largest publishers and owners of the Dorset Echo.

In total, charities up and down the UK are in line for grants totalling nearly £300,000.

The trustees who make the grants agonised for days to make difficult choices from a stack of deserving applications from Dorset, but narrowed the list down to those which they thought would deliver the most worthwhile practical benefits to communities served by the Dorset Echo and Bridport News.

The Friends of M.V. Freedom will receive £1,200 to replace 15 lifejackets.

Jill Hunter from the Friends said: “Thank you so much for the award of £1,200 to cover the cost of lifejackets for the boat. The volunteer Friends are delighted – we can’t wait to tell our treasured passengers how generous the foundation has been. Thank you again for your support.”

The Marine Theatre gets £5,000 to improve disabled access facilities.

Theatre marketing manager John Puckey said: “We’re delighted to receive this generous award from the Gannett Foundation, which is being used to fund the creation of a disabled toilet. It’s vital that our events are open to all of those in the community, and this money will make that possible.”

Dorset Reading Partners gets £1,236 to fund six new boxes of resources (books and games) for volunteers supporting children with their reading.

Manager Juliet Ruddick said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this funding. We are just about to train six new volunteer reading partners ready to start in Dorchester schools in the new year, and this will provide each of them with a box full of fantastic books and games to share with the young readers they support. Thank you.”

Over the last ten years alone, Newsquest has given more than £3 million to help charitable community causes all over the country.

Chairman of the trustees Simon Westrop said: “If your application did not succeed this time, please don’t be discouraged, but look at the applications that have won grants and think how you can come up with even better ideas next year.”