Stephen  hosted a reception in the House of Commons yesterday which was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the West Ham United Foundation, the charity that the club uses to support local communities in Newham and surrounding boroughs.

The Foundation has provided opportunities and support to around 1.5 million people in the area. The club has committed itself to maintaining and expanding its work around the Boleyn Ground, even after it moves to the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford next year.

The reception on Monday was also attended by the Deputy Mayor of Newham, Councillor Lester Hudson, and several other local councillors. They were joined by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon John Whittingdale, who expressed his support for the Foundation and wished it well for the expansion of its work accompanying the Stadium move.

Also present were West Ham joint-Chairman David Gold, the Premier League's Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, as well as representatives of dozens of local charities, schools and community groups who have received support from the Foundation over recent years.

Welcoming them all to the event, Stephen said: “West Ham has long been a very powerful presence at the heart of our community", he said, "right in the centre of the Borough of Newham. The Foundation plays a very full role in partnership with lots of other local organisations in the interests of the local community. It is a very wide-ranging programme that the Foundation has at West Ham, it's an ambitious programme and one which does a lot of very valuable work in our local area.”

West Ham’s Vice-Chairman, Karren Brady, paid special tribute to Stephen in her address to the reception: "Stephen works tirelessly on behalf of our community in East Ham. He really is one of the most committed and diligent MPs I have had the pleasure to meet and we have been honoured to have him represent us at the Boleyn Ground these past years.”

Baroness Brady, who has masterminded the expansion of the Foundation's work since arriving at the Club in 2010, also explained to the reception why the West Ham board believe it is so important to support the Club's local communities.

"When my two Chairmen, David Sullivan and David Gold, and I began our work at West Ham", she said, "one of our first priorities was to expand the work the Club had been doing to create better futures for local people. My Chairmen both originated from the area and...with their passion for giving something back to their local community and my determination to use sport to better the lives of its people, it quickly became something that was incredibly important to all three of us.

"We made sure the Foundation became the hub to deliver the Club’s vision for outreach, benefitting the charities we feel most passionate about and most importantly giving brighter futures for the most deprived people in our community.

"We now have some remarkable stories to tell of the lives we’ve changed and an exciting, ambitious vision for the future, as we prepare to take up residence in our new home.

“We now have two local communities to serve, the area surrounding the Boleyn Ground and that surrounding the new Stadium and we remain fully committed to both.”

The assembled gathering also heard from the Chief Executive of the West Ham United Foundation, Joe Lyons, who introduced them to four young people from the East London and Essex area whose lives have been transformed as a result of the Foundation's work.

"Over the next decade", Joe said, "we will work tirelessly to create more of these stories.

"Today, we are outlining our new 10 year strategy which redefines our vision. We want to be a truly inclusive organisation offering a range of programmes that provide positive experiences to all."

He set out the Foundation's priorities and goals for the next decade, including expanding its work across all of East London and Essex, establishing international programmes, creating pathways to education and work for young people in the region, and using sport as a motivator for social change.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore also hailed the achievements of the Foundation in his speech: "In terms of West Ham", he said, "some of their schemes are leading the way among all clubs, including the work they do with schools: 35 different schools being touched by West Ham's Foundation; 3,000 young people in a year being influenced just by one club.

"The Kicks programme has been taken on by the West Ham Foundation probably better than any other Club; it is currently working in 24 sites within east London, with a huge impact in terms of reducing anti-social crime.

"That's the power of football. That's the power of the West Ham badge, that's the power of the Foundation. There a lots of other clubs doing the same, but I don't think there's any single club that does it to the depth and breadth, and with the real commitment that West Ham do it."

The event ended with MPs presenting the Foundation with a special birthday card signed by all those in attendance. The message inside read: "Congratulations on 25 years of life-changing community work and long may it continue in your new home."

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AuthorStephen Timms