A CORONAVIRUS grant will help two guide groups bring hundreds of girls back together after months of separation.

The Wiltshire Community Foundation has awarded £3,000 to Calne district guides and £1,400 to the Melksham District Guide Headquarters from its Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund.

The Calne grant will be used to cover the annual subscriptions for more than 200 girls aged six to 18 in ten units. The units, which have been closed since March, have been unable to collect the weekly subscriptions that help cover all of the groups’ costs including its annual membership, known as the census, to Girlguiding UK .

The Calne units are due to pay more than £6,000 to Girlguiding next spring but only have reserves of just over £5,000, which also has to cover hall hire and other running costs.

Leader Sam Handy said: “Subscriptions from individuals are the primary source of income, and shutdown has resulted in a minimum of six months lost income. Girls have not been charged, but costs have still been incurred, and the annual census subscription is required to be paid. The grant will prevent units from having to close.”

She said leaders are concerned that without the grant some children may be unable to continue going to guides once the groups return to weekly meetings. “We are worried about the number of parents who will have lost their job or had a cut in income and thus be unable to pay for their daughters’ subscription,” said Ms Handy.

In Melksham, the grant will help cover costs including making its headquarters in Riverside covid safe for the 130 girls aged from six to 18 who use it.

Rainbows leader Karen Dwyer, who is also a member of the management committee, said: “We have been running Zoom meetings and dropping off activity kits for the girls but what none of our units have done, because some of our families are in different financial positions and some of them have been impacted by work, is continue to charge subscriptions. They are our main income stream and normally we have just enough money coming in to cover the running costs.”

She added: “We have still had to pay insurance and utilities, as well as the census. Without the grant we would really have struggled. All our usual fundraising has been lost and we use that to pay the fees of the girls whose families can’t afford to pay subscriptions because we don’t turn anyone away.”

The Melksham Rainbows are due to begin returning to meetings from October 13, subject to approval, with older units coming back after half-term. Said Mrs Dwyer, who has been involved with the group for 40 years: “Getting back will be good for their physical wellbeing but it is also good for the emotional wellbeing too. We know they are back at school but seeing the friends they don’t see

at school and having a little bit of routine, doing something different during the week is really good for them.

“We have seen them on Zoom meetings but that’s the same as being in the same room and being able to chat and play and we know they will be excited.”

The Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund has raised more than £1.1 million and distributed £850,000 to 200 groups so far.

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.