Sir Bob Murray CBE and Foundation CEO Lesley Spuhler OBE were invited to Buckingham Palace recently for a celebration lunch to commemorate the upcoming opening of the Beacon of Light.
The Foundation will receive the keys to the Beacon in May and begin the phased opening of the striking, six-storey building.
Chair of Trustees of the Foundation, Sir Bob Murray CBE commented: “We are hugely honoured that our Patron, HRH Countess of Wessex GCVO so graciously hosted a celebration lunch at Buckingham Palace.
“It was a milestone moment to toast the opening of the Beacon, which is now only weeks away.
“People still ask why we are building the Beacon and my answer is always the same – the North East is a fantastic place to live but still has many challenges. Many adults, families and even young people feel like they have limited prospects, nothing to aspire to and therefore no motivation to improve their own lives.
With deprivation and diminished confidence comes even greater issues, the Beacon of Light will be a force for good for people across the region, not just Sunderland. It will help people to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.
“The Beacon already looks like a landmark building and will boast world class facilities but it has not been designed for the elite – it will be open and welcoming to everyone in our region. As well as being a great social and meeting place, it will also try to address specific challenges such as unemployment, poor attainment and economic inactivity, low skill levels, poor health and issues around crime and anti-social behaviour.”
Statistics show that over 50% of local residents see crime and anti-social behaviour as a major problem; a quarter of families have poor health; 33% of men and 45% of women are economically inactive; 64% of children are in lone parent families; and 60% of children live in the 25% of most disadvantaged wards in the country.
The Foundation of Light is the registered charity of Sunderland AFC and has grown immensely in stature over the last decade and a half to become one of the most successful organisations in its field with the reputation as an industry leader.
The charity raises over £4 million a year to fund its pioneering work. It receives much of this funding on a results basis so is highly efficient and delivers outstanding Social Return on Investment (SROI) across its portfolio of 40 specialist programmes.
By addressing regional challenges and working alongside strategic partners, the Beacon of Light will assist the socio-economic revival of the region and is expected to generate a SROI of £73m in its first 20 years.