Everton in the Community received the Freedom of the City - Liverpool’s highest civic honour - ahead of the Blues' Premier League fixture against Southampton on Saturday.
As the players left the field following their warm-up, a delegation from Liverpool City Council, which included Lord Mayor Malcolm Kennedy and Mayor Joe Anderson, presented EitC Executive Chair, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, and members of the charity’s staff and participants, with the Freedom Scroll in front of a crowd just short of 40,000 and a worldwide tv audience.
EitC celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year and has spent three decades tackling key social issues to create stronger communities and help some of the most vulnerable in the Merseyside region.
Recognised as one of the most progressive sporting charities in the world, EitC improves the lives of 20,000 people every year and supports more than 1,100 children through school sports programmes.
More than 1,000 residents have also been helped back into work thanks to their employment support, while, in 2017 alone, over 100 young people graduated from the charity’s apprenticeship programme.
Lord Mayor, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, said: “Over the last three decades, Everton in the Community has made a massive difference to the local community and is rightly recognised as one of the UK’s top sporting charities.
"They are at the heart of so much in the Everton area, touching the lives of thousands of people every year. If you live in L4, the chances are that you will have benefited, directly or indirectly, from their work.”
Professor Barrett-Baxendale said: “For our charity to receive the Freedom of the City of Liverpool is the most wonderful accolade and it is testament to the hard work of all of our staff and volunteers.
“As a charity, we have never been afraid to tackle some of the most common social issues that exist in our city. The support we have had from Liverpool City Council, Evertonians and the people of Liverpool has allowed us to grow and develop into an organisation that not only changes lives but saves lives.”
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, added: “I’m delighted Everton in the Community are being added to the Freedom Roll to officially recognise the life-changing work they are carrying out every single day.”
EitC also set the bar nationally when they employed a Neighbourhood Manager, who works with residents and businesses in the ‘Blue Mile’ - a one-mile radius around Goodison Park - and is on hand to address any issues and ensure the area remains clean and tidy.
Other achievements include:
- The charity’s Kicks programme has engaged with more than 7,000 young people in the past decade and, in 2017, reduced anti-social behaviour by 73 per cent and crime rates by 75 per cent in Merseyside during session times. Each year, more than 100 young people aged 19-25 will volunteer and gain valuable work experience on the programme.
- Everton was the first football club to open a Free School. The Free School aims to educate young people who have not adapted to mainstream education, giving them a second chance at further education, training and employment.
- EITC is committed to tackling mental health issues and work with 500 people weekly in the local community. They have also supported 300 children who were potentially at risk of suffering with mental health problems.
- EitC’s work extends beyond the Merseyside region and operates internationally. The charity was the only Premier League representative invited by Pope Francis to the Vatican in 2016 to share its best practice at the Papal Conference for Sport in Humanity.
- Thanks to EITC’s work with the Royal British Legion in delivering ‘Knowsley Veterans’ Hub’, the lives of 400 veterans have been improved as a result of encouragement to take part in sport, training and social activities.
- EitC has delivered the National Citizen Service programme for a nearly five years, with more than 600 young people graduating from the government initiative. The summer of 2017 saw the young people raise over £11,000 for local charities and complete 28,620 hours of volunteering.
- Through its ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is campaign’, Everton reached a fundraising target of £244,000 to build a shelter for young homeless people in Liverpool. The initiative saw David Unsworth and his Premier League 2 champions sleep out at Goodison Park to help raise funds and experience what homeless people have to go through.
There are 69 organisations which have been admitted to the Freedom Roll of Associations and Institutions since it began in 1962. These include The King’s Regiment, Liverpool and Everton Football Clubs, National Museums Liverpool, Merseyside Army Cadet Force, Cancer Research UK, Cream and Bradbury Fields.