Community group helps 600 South Tyneside families in need

Angie Comerford and Jo Durkin say they have outgrown their Hebburn Helps premises
Angie Comerford and Jo Durkin say they have outgrown their Hebburn Helps premises

A food bank set up to help struggling families in South Tyneside has handed out 600 emergency food parcels in less than a year.

The figure revealed by Hebburn Helps, Community Food Bank and Crisis Response Team, comes as founders Jo Durkin and Angie Comerford launch a plea for bigger premises to run their service.

We have people from all walks of life coming into Hebburn Helps needing support, from working families whose wages just don’t make ends meet, to people who are self-employed - it’s not just people on benefits.

jo Durkin

It is currently based at a unit at South Tyneside Children’s Centre in Campbell Park Road, Hebburn.

However, they say the venue is no longer fit for purpose due to the ever-growing number of families needing their help and the introduction of drop-ins for those needing benefit advice.

The team rely on donations and fear they are running out of space to store desperately-needed items that can be put to good use by someone in need.

Since January, Angie and Jo, with a team of volunteers have given support to 850 people struggling to make ends meet. During the summer holidays they provided 1,047 packed lunches to youngsters.

Jo, speaking at a recent Hebburn Community Area Forum, said: “We have people from all walks of life coming into Hebburn Helps needing support, from working families whose wages just don’t make ends meet, to people who are self-employed - it’s not just people on benefits.

“The number of people who use our service has grown and the benefit advice service is really popular.

“However, where we are really isn’t fit for purpose anymore. We try and provide a private place where people can talk to the benefit advisor, but the place where we are doesn’t always allow that.

“We feel like we are suffocating where we are, we have no space - we are desperate for somewhere bigger where we can continue to deliver the services that are needed and provide a place where people can come and talk in confidence.

“We try our best to make people as comfortable as possible, but we just don’t have the room.”

The women are being supported by Coun Alan Kerr as they try to find a new home for Hebburn Helps - a Community Voluntary Organisation.

The service provides help to families struggling to make ends meet through donations of food parcels, clothing, household items and provides drop-ins sessions for people seeking benefits advice and those aged 16-24 who are facing homelessness.

The women have also joined forces with Greggs and Morrisons in Jarrow which donate surplus food, nearing its sell-by date and can’t be sold in store, which is then used to create food hampers.

For more details visit hebburnhelps.co.uk