Two “Masketeers,” among volunteers across the Durham area providing a range of vital community support to those among the hardest hit by the flu pandemic, are sharing a £1,100 shot-in-the-arm from the city’s freemen.
The cash is benefiting local foodbanks, children in refuge centres, the city’s homeless, as well as vulnerable families and the elderly – among them a woman who has celebrated her 100thbirthday.
The “Masketeers” – Durham Elvet Rotary Club members Tom Sharples and Peter Atkinson – initially set up a mini production line in their homes to craft and supply colourful face masks to the Durham Community Foodbank and Waddington Street Centre. But their work was so well received they gifted them for the wider community, more recently adding the Dragonfly Cancer Trust to their supply line.
“The freemen’s £250 donation helped kick start our work and we were helped with cotton and fabric donations from Kite Packaging based in Washington. We have given out nearly 1,000 masks and plan to continue making them for as long as they are required,” said Tom.
The woman celebrating her 100thbirthday was among the beneficiaries of support from staff and youngsters at the Silver Tree Primary and Nursery School in Ushaw Moor.
The £300 they received from the freemen helped towards the cost of putting together food parcels distributed once a fortnight to 20 needy families, as well as isolated pensioners and the disabled, within their catchment area.
Mrs Monica Smith, was singled out for extra-special attention to mark her landmark birthday. In addition to her congratulations from the Queen she also received flowers, chocolates and a birthday cake when she was visited by staff from the school.
“Families and individuals most at risk were identified by local churches, those involved in community work and the local Co-op. Staff have gone above and beyond to offer support to the community we serve and we are particularly grateful to the freemen and all those who made contributions to our cause,” said head teacher Mrs Natalie Maughan.
The freemen’s £300 gift to the Salvation Army’s work provided a “very valuable addition” to monies contributed towards the cost of finding permanent and temporary accommodation to homeless men and women who were sleeping on the city’s streets.
Church leader Darryn Hook said coronavirus forced the eventual closure of their Sanctuary 21 café in Saddler Street, ending their provision of meals and support to those sleeping “rough.”
“We worked with the county council and other organisations to find them permanent or temporary accommodation across the wider county. The money from the freemen, and other donor organisations, allowed us to source cookers, microwaves, televisions, paint and decorating equipment to make their accommodation feel a more permanent place. For up to 20 individuals we have achieved some very positive outcomes and there are fewer people living on the streets of Durham as a result,” he said.
Ten underprivileged children will be spending a happier Christmas in three refuge centres in County Durham as a result of the freemen’s donation to local representatives of a national charity.
Their £250 gift is a key starter to covering the cost of a box of toys, each worth in excess of £80, which will be delivered at Christmas under a scheme run by the charity Kids Out UK.
“Regional ambassador for the charity, Norman Sellar (Consett Rotary), explained: “: “There are 180 children sheltering with a parent in the 16 refuges in the region stretching from the Tweed to the Tees. Donations from rotary clubs across the region, as well as individual gifts like those from the freemen, will underwrite the total cost of providing toys for every child.”
Eric Bulmer, who chairs the freemen’s charitable trust, said: “We are delighted our gifts have provided the building blocks for support work delivering much-needed help to the needy of all ages at this particularly challenging time.”