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Freemen's Gifts Helps Deliver Christmas Cheer To The Needy

16th Dec 2020
Freemen's Gifts Helps Deliver Christmas Cheer To The Needy
A Christmas gift from Durham’s freemen has helped secure the future of three volunteer-run foodbanks operating within the city’s boundaries.

No fewer than 27 independently operated foodbanks across county are run by the Durham Christian Partnership. And, while grocery parcels offered to the needy are the product of the generosity of individual members of the public, the organisation also needs cash to meet operational overheads.

The freemen’s £250 donation will boost funds covering overheads for Durham’s three centres in Waddington Street and the Elvet Methodist and Sunderland Road Baptist Churches.

The partnership’s chief executive officer, Peter MacLellan, explained: “Four dozen volunteers receive and sort the foodstuffs handed in by the public which are prepared into parcels providing provisions for three days. The fare we offer is also reinforced by foodstuffs from commercial organisations, including supermarkets.

“Cash donations are a vital part of helping meet rental and other costs, which include three full-time staff members involved in running a central warehouse, training and supervising volunteers.”

In addition to immediate help with food supplies, the partnership also offers specialist debt and benefit advice services through Community Money Advice County Durham and works closely with Citizens’ Advice and other related organisations.

“Thanks to local generosity we have never had to turn anyone away for lack of food donations and at this time of year we also like to include seasonal additions like Christmas puddings and cakes so all donations are very welcome,” added Mr MacLellan.

A lockdown-hit community association, battling to maintain core activities in an area facing severe deprivation, has also been handed a £250 cash windfall by the freemen.

The Laurel Avenue association, a registered charity, operating from a building adjacent to the local primary school, must raise funds to meet all its running costs – which has proved particularly hard this year.

Yet despite the financial squeeze its luncheon club still delivers to more than two dozen senior citizens, has served up 125 daily food packs to children eligible for free school meal during half term, and provided i-pads to allow youngsters to study at home.

Volunteers have now pulled together Christmas contingency plans, targeting families facing redundancy or struggling on low incomes. It will include visits from Santa and gifts of inexpensive toys, including lego, jigsaws and stationery.

Patrick Conway, who chairs the association’s management committee, said: “While Covid has severely restricted our work at the centre, local volunteers, observing social distancing rules, have been active in visiting residents and providing support as required. Christmas will be challenging financially for many families and this enables the association to provide some festive cheer.”


A third charity, the independently run Durham Action on Single Housing (DASH), will also benefit from a seasonal boost of £250.

The organisation has more than 50 bed spaces across the county, some of them in the city, accommodating people aged between 16 and 65. Additionally they offer a supportive environment for vulnerable women with multiple and complex needs, helping them access housing and other support services.

Trevor Atkinson, DASH’s business development manager, is one of 18 full and part-time staff backed by 20 volunteers.

He said: “We offer single homeless people and those at risk of homelessness gain more stability in their lives and look to move them on to permanent accommodation. At the same time we reduce costs to other services, like the NHS, social services and the prison service. Our funding comes from the county council, the generosity of people like freemen, charitable activities and events organised by businesses, churches, schools and other groups.”