Boxers, crime-fighters and a village primary school’s mission to help families facing severe hardship, have all benefited from pre-festive gifts from Durham City Freemen’s Charitable Trust.
And their £300 donation to enthusiasts at Brandon Boxing Club has proved an instant big hit – underpinning the lion’s share of costs of a new punch bag, replacement gloves and other key pieces of kit.
The club, operating for the last seven years from a purpose-built gym within the village cricket club’s multi-sport complex, is led by volunteer coaches.
A third of its 150 members are female – and a fifty-strong “rookie” section caters for youngsters aged from five to eleven. Two dozen of their leading exponents take part in regular competitions and one them, 17-year-old Megan Bainbridge, is an England Boxing national champion.
“Funding for volunteer-led organisations like ours is a constant challenge and the freemen’s generosity has allowed us to ditch kit desperately in need of replacement,” said competition secretary Alex Oliver, a 41-year-old civil servant awarded the British Empire Medal in 2017 for services to the sport.
The Durham Agency Against Crime’s £500 share of the latest round of donations will be used to meet the cost of personal protective equipment – vital to maintain their work in a year hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Executive manager Bryan Russell explained: “Without this money it would have made our work much harder and achieving our targets even more difficult.”
The DAAC, a charity launched 30 years ago and closely allied to the county’s police force, spearheads projects involving primary and secondary school pupils and utilises the mentoring skills of volunteer police cadets.
The agency challenges young people’s behaviour, helps steer them away from scenarios leading to potential involvement in crime and works to develop a broader understanding of the people and workings of the communities in which they live.
DAAC youth worker apprentices at Ingleton C of E Primary School on Save the Children day
“We, like many organisations, have to ensure those involved in all projects have access to wipes, masks, gels and sanitisers. The pandemic caught the world by surprise and we, like so many others did not have any resources in place to meet it. The freemen’s intervention has been an enormous help,” he added.
The £250 given to the Silver Tree Primary School and Nursery in Ushaw Moor is the freemen’s second donation this year in support of staff delivering fortnightly food parcels to 20 at-risk families within their catchment area. Other beneficiaries include pensioners and the disabled, all of them identified by local churches, community workers and the local Co-op store.
Head teacher Mrs Natalie Maughan said: “The donations we received have been invaluable in supporting many of our families facing severe hardship, including some who have lost jobs due to Covid-19. For some elderly and vulnerable members of the community receiving food also represented their only contact with the outside world.
“It has been important not just to support the families of children attending Silver Tree but also the wider community which is very much part of the village. Without such generous support we would not have been able to reach as many.”
Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust, said communities were at the heart of society and caring for the many and varied needs at this most challenging of times put great strain on the resources of charities.
“We are pleased to support them and appreciate the excellent work they do for the most vulnerable among us,” he added.