OUR chair Tom Flood CBE has spoken to a philanthropy website about why he set up a fund with Dorset Community Foundation in memory of his late partner Paul Cornes.
The Paul Cornes Fund has helped disadvantaged young people change their lives by helping them follow their dream careers, contributed to the community foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign and supported the Living legacy Fund, which gives grass roots groups the resourced to change lives in their communities.
Tom told The Beacon Collective that Paul, 64, died in June 2020 after chemotherapy treatment for his prostate cancer was halted because of the strain put on the NHS by Covid.
Tom, who was voted chair last December, told Beaconb’s communication co-ordinator James Macdonald: “Our Paul – as we always called him – used to say that said ‘a shroud has no pockets’.” Unfortunately, because he was only 64 when he died, his had deep pockets – he would be horrified by that.
“Upon Paul’s passing. I inherited a lot of his money. It didn’t feel right that I should just keep it for myself, so I started to think about how we could keep his memory alive. I stumbled upon the Dorset Community Foundation, which helped me to get things started. The team there was invaluable in helping me to get things up and running.”
Tom met Paul in London in 1997, at the time Paul was working for Prudential as its head of social responsibility. He moved on to legal firm Linklaters in a similar role. The couple moved to Boscombe in 2010 after spotting a flat at Honeycombe Beach and then six years ago they moved to Talbot Woods.
“Paul was quite nervous about us as a couple moving into a small place like this but our neighbours are fantastic and we all socialise together,” said Tom. “They have been absolutely wonderful since Paul died.”
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017. “We knew at that stage it was terminal because it had spread. We did think we would get longer but unfortunately because of Covid his chemotherapy had to be stopped and he died here at home, which was his absolute wish. We got a hospital bed for him and the Macmillan nurses were just fantastic to us.”
He chose Dorset Community Foundation to set up the Paul Cornes Fund. Tom said: “By creating this Fund, not only do I get the chance to honour Paul, I am also connecting with people in Dorset who I would never have met. I know Paul would be quietly chuffed that I’m still out doing things and that he is still being talked about.
“It has been a great comfort and a form of bereavement therapy for me. I can think of nothing that would make him happier than knowing his money is still making real change happen in people’s lives.
“My desire was to make a fund which is adventurous and ambitious, as Paul was in life. It is not about attracting fanfare for him – something he would have hated(!) – but rather using his money in an impactful and appropriate way.”
Proceeds from the fund supported the Dorset Bursary Fund, which gives grants of up to £1,000 to help young people aged 16 to 25 take up vocational studies they could not otherwise afford. The grants support students at six colleges and are used for travel to college, buying required equipment (including laptops) and for essential study trips.
In 2020/21 it awarded £31,000 to 60 youngsters to help them take up courses. Among the subjects they will be studying are blacksmithery, animal care and uniformed public services.
I can think of nothing that would make him happier than knowing his money is still making real change happen in people’s lives
Said Tom: “The legacy of the fund is terribly important to me and what I want people to know is I am just enormously proud of Paul and what he did in his life. What I would like most of all is to help young people do one of the things he thought was most important – to be able to make something of themselves.”
He said education was something that Paul, who was born in Liverpool and fended for himself from the age of 16, believed in strongly after making his way through college against his father’s wishes. “At 18 he became the first person in his family to go to the polytechnic and got his degree, much to the annoyance of his father who thought he should have got a job.
“It always stuck with Paul that he was the first person in his family who went to college and who made education something important in his mind.”
Tom said he wanted the devastating loss of his partner to bring about something positive, he said. “I wanted his memory to be kept alive and, because he adored Dorset, when I discovered the community foundation I thought it was an ideal partner to set up a fund with,” he added. “It’s a safe mechanism to get money out to those in need and I can get as involved as I want.
Tom has been involved with the awarding of bursary grants and has been struck by the life-changing power of grants that give young people an opportunity to choose a career path they would otherwise be denied.
“I sat on a bursary panel and I was just transfixed by the stories I was reading,” he said. “These grants are transforming so many young people’s futures and it’s very powerful. Our Paul would be chuffed to see the impact his fund has made.”
He has this advice for anyone considering setting up a fund, either as a memorial or a living legacy. “You must examine for yourself why you want to do this,” he said. “Look at what interests you and then find small charities in your area which are addressing that need. See what support you can offer to them.
“I have become a huge fan of community foundations. I didn’t know they existed before setting up the fund. They take care of all the checks, so you don’t have to worry about carrying out the due diligence yourself.
“Ultimately, if you are able to do good now, just start – don’t put it off. I’m in the fortunate position because of my later partner’s inherited money that I can donate each year and attract matching money for Dorset.”
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