Most-in-need on Teesside helped by charity foundation

Chris and Debbie Powlay (of Ladies of Steel) pictured with Hilary Greenwell (right) who are delivering food parcels to people like pensioner Betty Gibbon (centre) around Dormanstown during the crisis. Pic by Doug Moody.
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A grant making charity has awarded £1m to help grassroots groups through the pandemic, many of them across Teesside.

County Durham Community Foundation reached the milestone this month, after vowing to help Durham, Darlington and Tees Valley communities which were hit hard by Coronavirus.

The fund remains open for applications.

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of the Foundation, said: “We have such mixed emotions about this moment.

“We exist to help communities in an impactful way, and we are really grateful we have been able to award over 200 grants in such a short time.

“But we feel for the groups we are supporting, and in turn, the people they are keeping afloat.

“There have been some wonderful moments of kindness and human spirit, but it’s going to take a long time for people to recover.

“I want to thank our supporters, the National Emergencies Trust and our team for getting this money where it needs to be.

“They have worked so hard.”

The National Emergencies Trust (NETs) launched an appeal as Coronavirus arrived in the UK and began to spread.

Nearly ninety million pounds was raised, and community foundations were chosen to help distribute the funds.

A further £200,000 was raised by County Durham Community Foundation through a Crowdfunder appeal and private donations.

The £1million has been awarded to groups offering food parcels, suicide prevention support, help with mental health, prescription collections, PPE, incontinence products for end-of-life cancer patients and safe transport to and from the hospital for treatment.

BAME communities, the elderly, people who are homeless, children facing food poverty through missing school and disabled people have all been identified as key groups in need.

Linx Hemlington, based in Middlesbrough, which normally runs a thriving youth club and Detachework, was one of the groups awarded a grant.

Sara Mirsalehi, operational manager for Linx Hemlington, said: “Our main objective is to inspire young people in Middlesbrough.

“We work with young people aged 10 to 19 who are often facing a variety of disadvantages.

“When Covid struck we had to close our face-to-face provisions, centre-based youth clubs and our detached provision.

“So we did a survey to see what people were struggling with, and food appeared to be the main issue.

“We have wonderful food banks but we needed to be more proactive and help those people who couldn’t wait for a referral or a voucher.

“We helped single parents, people who’d lost their jobs and people affected by furlough.”

The charity was awarded £5,000 by the Foundation to deliver food parcels and activity packs for families.

Before then, Linx Hemlington had worked together with Neighbourly, Fare Share, Middlesbrough and Redcar Together, and Middlesbrough Council to meet need.

Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston then put them in touch with the Foundation, who made the grant to keep the good work going.

Sara, who has been with Linx for four years, said: “Without the funding, there is no magic.

“It has allowed us to deliver and serve our community.”

As well as support with food for 30 families each week, the project is also dropping off activity packs, books and art supplies for young people.

It has also used on-line platforms to safely engage with young people and run weekly virtual Youth Club sessions.

Sara explained: “It’s been really amazing and we’re grateful to be in a position to help some of our families.

“When we drop food off and move back, they will come to the door and tell us what a difference it makes.

“One mum told us ‘you have no idea how excited my child was to see strawberries.’

“Another family were struggling with their children arguing and we gave them some tennis rackets.

“They told us it stopped all the arguing and the children are now playing with each other and talking together.

“Middlesbrough often features in the press for the wrong reasons, however, during this crisis, we have seen a lot of communities working together, wanting to help and seeing what can be done.”