Photos by Louis McLaren
As Ramsgate FC chairman James Lawson marks his third anniversary of running the club the focus on community is clear.
This week the Rams are welcoming almost 400 children, serving 3000 meals, giving out 400 hampers and 400 presents as part of the Christmas Holiday Activities and Food Programme.
The holiday programme also has 50 staff involved as it runs at the WW Martin grounds and at Cliftonville Primary School as it did in the Summer.
The youngsters are also in for a treat across the five days as the club has laid on an ice rink and Santa.
The programme is generally funded by government and aims to address food poverty, inactivity, isolation and learning loss by children, through activities and the provision of a hot meal and healthy snacks. It is aimed at children in receipt of benefits-related free school meals.
James says he has learnt a lot during his three years as chairman and seen the success of the club grow,
He said: “We’ve had a lot of success that’s culminated in the people of Thanet bumping into a kid wearing a Ramsgate shirt in every local supermarket, restaurant and leisure centre they visit.
“We run one of the country’s largest HAF programmes with 400 local youngsters enjoying exercise, hot meals and Christmas fun with us.
“What I’ve really learnt in three years is that good people who care are what make a football club and I’d like to thank everyone involved as supporters, coaches, players, sponsors, volunteers and all for their help making us become what we are today.
“The recent purchase of the ground and with it the exciting ideas for a new stand give reason for optimism that we can kick on again. But right now it’s nice to just soak up how far we’ve come together in such a short space of time.”
In September a decision by Thanet council to sell the freehold of the WW Martin Community Stadium to the Rams was boost to long-term plans to create an enterprise and education centre at the site, James said.
Previously James told The Isle of Thanet News of the ambition spend between “£2-£3million” on a new stand on the north side of the stadium which will also serve as a college for 14 to 16 year olds.
With the approval to sell the lease, confirmed these plans can now take a step forward.
Community use at the club has also benefitted from a £1 million investment for the new Sun Deck, WW Martin stadium and 3G pitch, with the all-weather surface meaning the ground can be used “every minute of every day” by players of all ages and also by schools, colleges, youth organisations and community teams.