Funding Support in 2019

University Hospital (Dryburn)

A Donation of £1000 has been granted to purchase equipment for a new chemotherapy unit at University Hospital (Dryburn).

The grant will help, support and enhance patient care and well-being as they undergo their treatment for cancer.

20th January 2019

Durham Area Disability Leisure Group (DADLG)

A gift from Durham’s Freemen has answered the “dreams and wishes” of scores of disabled children and young people who are members of a county-wide organisation based in the city.

A direct appeal for help from the Durham Area Disability Leisure Group (DADLG) was met with a £2,000 donation that will kick-start the launch of new youth club and an associated extension of other activities.

The group, operating from the Vane Tempest Hall in Gilesgate, delivers a programme of sports, social and leisure activities during evenings, weekends and school holidays centred on venues including Durham City, Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor.

Founded nearly 40 years ago by two postmen with disabled sons, it has been a registered charity for more than 20 years and is now supported by the families of more than 200 children and young people, some just two years old and others 25 and beyond.

In recent years they have had just one paid employee but the freemen’s cash guarantees the recruitment of a part-time project co-ordinator to lead both next month’s launch of the youth club in Gilesgate and an expansion of their existing work.

“We try to fulfil the dreams and wishes of our children and young people and at the same time, cultivate a network to benefit parents, carers and their brothers and sisters. Being together and sharing the enjoyment and relaxation in the company of like-minded people can bring huge improvements to the health and well-being of each family unit,” said DADLG project manager Lesley Clelland.

“The freemen’s generosity has pump-primed the start of planning for the youth club, which is what the youngsters have consistently said they would like.

“The new project co-ordinator’s job will be to use the freemen’s lead to encourage other donors to support us. Already we have been given extra funding by the Durham Area Action Partnership, paying for some of the equipment and materials the new youth club will need,” said Lesley.

The group’s existing activities extend to exclusive use at special trampoline sessions, a soft play “Wacky Warehouse” area, martial arts training, Lego parties, craft activities, pet sessions, autistic friendly cinema visits, and family day trips within the county and beyond.

The chairman of the freemen’s wardens, Eric Bulmer, said: “We are pleased to be able to support such a unique charity that not only provides leisure activities for young people with disabilities but also includes and involves their families and carers as well.”

4th July 2019

Durham Pointers

The generosity of Durham’s Freemen has ensured the city’s award-winning tourism volunteers stay “in the pink.”

The Durham Pointers, recognised by their distinctive pink tabards, can be seen on the city’s streets every day, in all weathers, offering a warm welcome and directions to the tens of thousands of visitors from across the world who arrive annually between Easter and October.

Three years ago the Freemen’s Charitable Trust made a £4,000 donation to the Pointers’ cause – some of the cash meeting the cost of pink tabards, waterproof clothing and information leaflets.

A year later, after earning a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and the first of two Gold Awards from regional tourism bosses, the 70-strong team received a second cash injection of £1,350 from the Freemen.

This year’s gift from the trust, of £600, will cover the cost of replacing the now worn-out tabards – and for their part the Freemen’s continuing generosity is recognised with an acknowledgement on the back.

Pointers’ chairman Dave Carter said: “Since our organisation was founded in 2012 we are proud to acknowledge the friendship and association built up over the years with the Durham Freemen. As volunteers we are extremely grateful for the funding they have provided and fully appreciate the invaluable assistance it has afforded us.”

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the wardens of the Freemen’s eight surviving craft guilds, added: “We are pleased to support a committed group of volunteers who provide an invaluable service to the city, its community and visitors, especially as the heritage of the Guilds of Freemen is embedded in the history of Durham, a city of which we are all immensely proud.”

19th December 2019

A Christmas gift from Durham’s Freemen, to a specialist respite care centre on the city’s northern outskirts, has proved to be particularly “well timed”.

The £250 donation from the freemen’s charitable trust will cover the cost of a range of equipment and soft furnishings – and includes a number of large wall clocks which, as well as being decorative, help staff monitor complex health needs.

The county council-run Hawthorn House complex at Newton Hall, built 12 years ago and staffed by a specialist team, provides temporary 24-hour care for 65 people - aged 16 and upwards - from across the whole of County Durham.

The individuals using the service all have learning difficulties and other medical issues, and all live at home with their parents and carers. All parties benefit from the respite care they receive at intervals at Hawthorn House.

Respite manager Sue Smith explained: “The freemen’s kind donation will enable us to enhance the environment we offer by buying accessories, like clocks, cushions, wall art, throws over beds and safety mirrors and make the place even brighter and more cheerful than it already is.

“The main refurbishment costs are being met by the local authority and includes new furniture and colourful redecoration. As far as possible the users will be able to choose the extras the freemen’s money will provide. On behalf of the staff and service users we would like to extend our thanks to the freeman whose generosity is going to allow us to do this.”

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust said: “We are pleased to support a centre in our local community providing a safe and caring environment for people with complex medical needs and, at the same time, vital respite care for their families and carers.

“We also applaud the staff for their dedication in creating a wonderful friendly environment for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

19th December 2019

Age UK Community Shed

Last spring Age UK County Durham, which supports a wide range of clubs, activities and services for older people and carers, launched a “community shed” in the yard of its retail superstore in Belmont.

Since then more than 100 people – a fifth of them teenagers who need special support – have taken advantage of the range arts and crafts sessions on offer.

While the charity remains committed to its principal aim of combating the isolation, loneliness and poverty among the elderly, it also puts high value on the Shed’s ability to provide a safe place for attendees of all ages to socialise and share or learn new skills.

Since it opened more than 100 people have taken part in sessions at the Shed which have produced items for sale to the public in the adjoining superstore.

The freemen have responded to the Shed’s appeal for support with a £250 gift and development manager, Christine Fletcher, hopes others will follow the their lead.

“To date we have repaired and painted donated furniture, made greetings cards, Christmas wreaths and textiles. Sessions of the men’s woodcraft group, led by three older volunteers, has also produced good quality bird boxes, bird feeders planters, hedgehog houses and garden furniture and they too are for sale and shoppers’ response has been very encouraging.

“The sales produce much-needed funds to support our new venture and we continue to work with local businesses who have donated pallets and off-cuts of wood. We are desperately seeking more contributions which will allow us to buy additional materials and be more creative,” said Christine.

Eric Bulmer, who chairs the freemen’s charitable trust, said “The Shed cultivates a friendly and supportive atmosphere which is important in enhancing people’s lives and self-worth. We are delighted to be able to play a part in helping their work to continue.”

The grant is awarded to support the development of the charity’s Community Shed which opened in spring 2019 to provide a local venue for all ages to socialise whilst enjoying taking part in a range of arts and crafts.

The Community Shed is based in the yard of Age UK County Durham’s Retail Superstore in Belmont, Durham.

This welcoming space is becoming a hub for people of all ages to take part in practical activities, including furniture upcycling, arts, crafts and woodcraft.

Since spring 2019 the volunteers working with over 100 people of all ages and interests have repaired, upcycled and painted donated furniture so that it can be sold. They have taken part in craft sessions to learn how to make Christmas wreaths, greetings cards and textile crafts. A number of sessions have been held with teenagers who have special support needs. A Men’s Woodcraft Group has volunteers who lead sessions to make good quality bird boxes, bird feeders, planters, hedgehog houses and garden furniture.

Eric Bulmer, who chairs the freemen’s charitable trust, said “The Shed cultivates a friendly and supportive atmosphere which is important in enhancing people’s lives and self-worth. We are delighted to be able to play a part in helping their work to continue.”

The gift will be used towards the cost of additional materials and tutors to support creative activities in the Community Shed in 2020.

19th December 2019

St Margaret’s Centre

A specialist Durham centre, which has for more than 27 years played a key role in helping hundreds of people recover from mental illnesses, is hoping new computer technology will “transform” the work it delivers.

The number of attendees at St Margaret’s Centre, a former school in the city’s Margery Lane, has more than doubled in the past three years and managers believe a computerised £2,500 database will provide a much improved service.

Therapy courses at the centre aim to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with mental illness and at the same time develop the confidence, motivation and self-esteem of those attending.

Over the past seven years the city’s freemen have donated more than £12,000 to St Margaret’s and have now given a further £500 towards the cost of the new database.

Rob Chatwin, manager of the centre run by a charitable trust, said: “We like to think we are good at what we do but believe the database will streamline our work.

“We need to record a lot of information and growing demand is making that increasingly difficult. We are spending too long trawling through paperwork and the database will make us more streamlined, more professional and better able to deliver improvement.”

Eric Bulmer, who chairs the freemen’s own charitable trust, said: “We already knew the quality of the therapy delivered by staff and volunteers is outstanding and had no hesitation in offering our continuing our support.”

This year a total of 127 people are registered with the centre - their ages ranging from 25 to 70 – who have taken up 172 placements in all areas, including woodwork, upholstery, horticulture and arts and crafts. Additionally 20 educational courses have been available and in the New Year even more courses will be delivered.

19th December 2019

Solan Connor Fawcett Trust

An award-winning charity leader, expanding a service offering practical support to cancer sufferers and bereaved families, has been given a helping hand by Durham City’s Freemen. Mark Solan, who four years ago launched the Solan, Connor, Fawcett Trust after cancer claimed the lives of his mother and grandmother, operates from a headquarters in Spennymoor, a satellite boutique in Ferryhill and a pop up drop-in clinic in Sacriston.

Mark, who works full-time from his Spennymoor office, can call on 50 volunteers for help. The trust has delivered help to more than 400 people in the first three years and in the last 12 months embraced 120 new families.

The organisation gained charitable status in 2017 and in the same year Mark’s success was underlined by a regional winner’s title in the Pride of Britain awards. That honour was subsequently followed last year by a national Points of Light Certificate – further national recognition from Prime Minister Theresa May of his community achievements.

The service, delivered free, responds to individual pleas but also takes up referrals from Macmillan Cancer Support, Durham’s St Cuthbert’s Hospice and the NHS. The Spennymoor Boutique and Hub offer treatment rooms and a wig bank, while the Ferryhill boutique will add a treatment room and a wig bank by the end of this year. Tradesmen, cleaners and gardeners tackle household services and a constant supply of wheelchairs, mobility scooters and chairlifts is also on offer. The trust also runs support groups, coffee mornings, social activities and organises day trips.

The trust’s latest venture, in newly rented premises below their current office, wig bank and treatment room in Spennymoor will create a drop-in centre and community kitchen that will run day and night for seven days a week to increase the services offered.

The trust will also will also run open days and workshops for local schools, businesses and the general public to raise awareness of its work in local communities and raise much-needed cash to support its mission.

The freemen have offered a £250 gift in support.

“It all started with a white collar charity boxing match which raised £21,000 for Cancer Research UK, followed by a three-week fundraising walk back from London to the region after the Pride of Britain Award.

“Without the help of volunteers and the financial support of organisations like the freemen we would not survive. I had no idea just how big it could grow. We are always looking at ways to get the best from every penny we can raise.

“Our work is focused entirely on delivering practical day-to-day support to those struggling after a cancer diagnosis or family loss,” said Mark, who gave up a job as a store manager in Durham City to devote all his time to the charity.

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust said: “We are pleased to support this amazing charity, developed and driven by the tremendous enthusiasm of Mark and his volunteers. It is firmly based in the community, reaching out and supporting individuals and their families at a most difficult time in their lives.”