Foundation support helps families through lockdown

Support from the Bernicia Foundation helped feed and provide arts and crafts activities for more than 900 people from County Durham during lockdown.

A grant of £6,250 ensured the East Durham Trust was able to deliver packed lunches and activity packs to households hit hard by the pandemic.

Parcels containing a loaf of bread, ham, cheese, crisps, biscuits and fruit were distributed to hundreds of families by volunteers from the Lisa Dixon Centre, Haswell, and Dawdon Youth and Community Centre in Seaham.

Bernicia, which created the £1m Bernicia Foundation to help organisations promoting financial and social inclusion, moved quickly to make £200,000 of foundation funding immediately available to tackle hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Funding was distributed to eight local authorities who used their local knowledge to ensure it quickly reached those able to deliver targeted help to people in need.

The Peterlee-based East Durham Trust is home to one of the North East’s longest established foodbanks and has seen a huge rise in demand from families struggling financially or simply finding it difficult to access supplies.

Its team has provided more than 6,000 people with food parcels since lockdown began in March. The trust forecasts that demand for its services will only continue to grow during winter.

“With the funding provided by Bernicia we provided a packed lunch and arts and crafts activities for 925 adults and children from across the East Durham area,” said Chief Executive Graham Easterlow.

“Bernicia’s support helped at a crucial time, to meet the needs of people at a time of real crisis.

“The communities of East Durham have suffered various challenges throughout the pandemic and we anticipate that things are likely to become much worse before it gets any better.

“The impact of people being at home more has meant that finances have been even more stretched, with increasing energy and food costs and reduced income due to loss of work or being on the furlough scheme.

“We have also seen the huge impact this has had on the mental health and well being of local people, as people have struggled with lockdown and lack of support from family, friends and other social networks.

“The trust has supported thousands of families with the provision of food ranging from emergency food parcels to packed lunches for families with no access to free school meals.”

Andrea Malcolm, Bernicia Executive Director of People, Homes and Communities, said: “The importance of the East Durham Trust – and many charities like them across the North East – to local communities can be seen in the fantastic way they have responded to the pandemic.

“It’s so heartening to see how our Bernicia Foundation support has assisted their community work.

“The trust told us people appreciated afternoon teas being delivered to their doors if they were shielding. They carry out hugely important work in the area, reaching out to people who are isolated and vulnerable as well as feeding families finding it tough to make ends meet.”