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Honouring a loved one through philanthropy

The Paul Cornes Fund was set up in 2020 to honour the memory of Paul Cornes by supporting communities in the local Dorset area. We speak to his partner, Tom Flood, the Fund’s founder, to find out more.

What inspired you set up the Paul Cornes Fund?

Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 and while it was very aggressive, we did expect to have longer than we got with him. His story was very similar to others who have been ill during the pandemic; his chemotherapy had to be stopped because of the strain put on the NHS by Covid.

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.

 

What are the Fund’s aims?

We decided that the Fund should address two main areas which would have been incredibly important to Paul:

  1. To provide educational bursaries for young people in DorsetPaul was the first person in his family to go to a polytechnic.
  2. To help people pay their winter fuel billsPaul always paid his mother’s heating expenses.

I have been delighted with the impact Paul’s money has had in less than two years.

For example, there are now 61 young people in Dorset that have been given an educational future they never would have had because of Paul’s money. The Fund also helped to keep 380 local people warm by heating 60 homes last year. That is real, tangible impact.

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Image: Paul Cornes (L), in whose memory the Fund has been established. Tom Flood CBE (R), Paul’s partner and the Fund’s founder.

 

Why is it important for the Fund to give locally?

We moved to Dorset to be by the sea. Paul felt totally at home there, especially during and after his treatment. We could go out for walks, get exercise and enjoy our remaining time together. The place is very special to me and it was for Paul as well.

Upon moving to the coast, we discovered Dorset has a lot of hidden inequalities. I remember reading applications for our educational bursary scheme where the household income was £13,600. I’m not sure how some people live on that when the average national wage is £25,000.

We realised that there is clearly a great deal of unmet need in the county. By giving money in Dorset, the Fund is helping communities which gave me and Paul an invaluable final few years together.

I used to give money to national charities, something I no longer do. Unfortunately, Paul and I had a poor experience of giving substantial money to some of the big cancer charities. This is another reason the Fund focuses on regional giving – it is far easier to see the impact of your money.

 

What has establishing the Fund meant for you?

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.

 

What is your advice for those looking to get into giving?

You must examine for yourself why you want to do this. 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. I’m helping to build a Living Legacy Fund – it’s fantastic.