THEY provide vital services in the community and need every penny they can get.

Now more than 50 schools and voluntary organisations in the south, including several in Hampshire, are sharing a £375,000 pay-out from the Big Lottery Fund.

The much-needed windfall will enable them to expand their activities and help more people, including vulnerable members of society.

Bellamy Court OAP Social Club in Southampton is planning to replace its armchairs with new straight-backed seats, increasing the number of pensioners who can use the popular facility.

Minstead Parish Council will use its Lottery money to restore a bridleway by removing overgrown vegetation and installing drainage ditches.

Ringwood U3A is buying presentation equipment to be used at meetings and community events.

It will help the group to showcase its activities, attract new members and enable more people to become involved in activities such as photography and video production.

Bursledon Village Hall Charitable Trust is planning to install stage lighting in the building.

The scheme will enhance the hall, making it suitable for a wider range of activities, including productions by community groups and a professional drama group.

Stockbridge Primary School is creating an allotment for the benefit of pupils and the wider community.

The facility, which will include a polytunnel and a story-telling area, aims to encourage children to eat and learn about healthy food.

P o r t s m o u t h - b a s e d Hampshire Family Mediation, which covers the whole county, is upgrading its IT equipment. The work will improve its operational efficiency, helping meet the rising demand for its services.

Other recipients include the Portsmouth Autism Support Network.

The organisation will use its new funding to provide monthly activities and support sessions for autistic people aged 11-14, easing the often difficult transition to secondary school.

Sacha Rose-Smith, head of the Big Lottery Fund in the south-east, said: “It’s important to remember volunteers who sacrifice their time to keep vital community projects going.

“Projects receiving grants from the Lottery’s good causes cash will help make their communities stronger and reach people in need.”

Where some of the cash will go:

  • Bellamy Court OAP Social Club – £2,280
  •  Bursledon Village Hall Charitable Trust – £4,262
  •  Cottage Grove Primary School, Portsmouth – £9,525
  •  Hampshire Family Mediation - £7,050
  •  Grateley War Memorial Hall – £330
  •  Minstead Parish Council – £941
  • Portsmouth Autism Support Network – £4,860
  • Ringwood U3A – £1,747 
  • Stockbridge Primary School – £9,970