MORE than 50 businesses, charities and residents got together at a community event which saw grants of totalling £10,000 presented to two charities.

The networking night at Santander’s Southend branch was designed to support the local economy It was part of the bank’s nationwide Community Connections initiative linking businesses, providing an open support network and boosting community projects.

Homeless Action Resource Project (Harp), which providse a day centre and night shelter, and the Dove Project, which offers counselling and support to women and children suffering domestic abuse, each received grants for £5,000 .

Andrew Moring, Southend’s deputy mayor, handed over the cheques, alongside Martin Bischoff, from Santander.

The donations were provided by the Santander Foundation, which offers grants to charities for projects that help disadvantaged people in local communities and which are nominated by customers and staff.

The evening provided a platform to discuss the issues affecting local people, and guest speakers discussed local business in the digital age.

The speakers included Nikki Wood, senior digital manager at Santander, and Jeremy Singer, owner of Chez Vision Marketing. Mr Bischoff, Santander’s managing director of retail distribution, said: “Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of not just the local, but the national economy. The networking event was a great opportunity to listen to the thoughts and concerns of Southend’s thriving small and medium enterprises and see how we can develop our resources to help champion local business.

“South Essex is home to some hugely influential and successful businesses. We hope that by bringing together these business leaders, it will help improve the long-term prospects for the local economy.”

Santander will work with the businesses, professionals, charities and individuals who attended the event to ensure they are introduced to more key contacts in their area.