Foundation cash boost helps tackle loneliness in Gateshead community

A charity that provides lonely and isolated older people with a place to have fun and socialise is one of the first organisations to be awarded a grant from the Bernicia Foundation.

Teams and Bensham Community Care has received £6000 from The Bernicia Foundation’s Inclusion Grant to support its activities that bring together lonely and isolated people aged 65 or over.

The organisation, which is celebrating its 30th year hosts around 90 people each week who tuck into home-cooked meals and enjoy entertainment such as quizzes and games including Wii competitions while also chatting with friends both old and new. 

A twice-weekly lunch club for men, many of whom are widowers, encourages them to get out and about as well as share their feelings of loss with other males going through the same thing.

Michelle Scott, a Trustee at Teams and Bensham, said: “Our lunch clubs are really popular and the Day Centre makes a huge difference to the lives of people who come here – many who would otherwise go days without seeing or speaking to anyone. They’re a social lifeline for people who simply don’t have the friendship and support we all need to live happy and fulfilling lives.

“We’re delighted to have a successful application for the Inclusion Grant and thank the Bernicia Foundation for their generosity. The money will go towards the running of the lunch clubs and activities such as arts and crafts, providing the meals and maintaining the minibus service for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend the club.”

Chrissie Bate is 92 and first came to the Teams & Bensham Community Care charity over 25 years ago, starting with their weekly aquafit sessions at a local swimming pool and their weekly exercise class and now attends the Tuesday lunch club to do crafts.

She said: “I really enjoy my craft group.  We have learnt so much about card making, we’ve even done wedding invitations for one of the charity’s volunteers – if I say so myself, they were beautiful.  We have also made stained glass windows, one of which is in the local doctor’s surgery and three others are in our day centre windows where the lunch clubs are held, showing what our club is about.  

“I have made so many friends and it’s great that the project minibus picks us up at our door and then brings us home again. During the recent Covid-19 crisis it has been difficult not being able to go out or have any visitors, just seeing my family through the window or more recently they come and sit in the back garden.  

“I have missed going to the Tuesday lunch club and chatting and laughing with the group. Hopefully it won’t be long before we are all back enjoying each other’s company again and having a good catch up.”

Andrea Malcolm, executive director of people, homes and communities, added: “Teams and Bensham Community Care is a really great organisation and we’re pleased to support such a vital service that is clearly well-loved and valued by its members.

“Loneliness and isolation are very real problems that affect both peoples’ mental and physical health and so it’s hugely important that places like the Day Centre have the financial support to continue to be there for their local community.”

The Bernicia Foundation encourages applications from organisations committed to delivering real community benefits, such as tackling loneliness and accessing employment opportunities, as well as providing support for young talent to flourish. The closing date for this round is Friday 14 August.