Team praised as 'the backbone of our communities' during covid after helping people across South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn
A charity has received national recognition for its work in the community during the pandemic.
Churches Together South Tyneside (CTST) is an entirely voluntary organisation which brings together people from various religions and beliefs, to help those experiencing distressing circumstances such as loneliness, poverty and isolation.
The group’s Happy at Home Project provides volunteer befrienders to around 70 people, who receive a weekly visit to help keep up morale.
They also run Happy Hubs each week, providing numerous activities which give opportunities to older people to make new friends at a time when they might need them most.
People who are housebound, wheelchair users and those without confidence can attend, with taxis paid for.
In October 2020 CTST were awarded £32,000 funding from the National Lottery Community (NLFC) Fund, who are very happy with how the money has been spent.
The group made sure that no one would be alone on their birthday, made garden-gate visits when lockdown prevented them from entering homes, acquired flowers from Waitrose which would have otherwise gone to waste, delivered food parcels and PPE and much more besides.
CTST was one of just 21 charities across England and Wales specifically commended by the National Lottery Community Fund, who praised their efforts to “support older people through home visits and community hubs with an aim to reduce social isolation, and improve the mental and physical health of those they support”.
Minister for Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston, said: “I’m immensely grateful for the volunteers and charity staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.
“They have been truly heroic and the backbone of our communities.”
Margaret Stephenson, project coordinator at Happy at Home, said: “As soon as the first lockdown started we were out there. For a long time we were the only people on the patch doing this. We worked hard.
“We’ve covered South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn so that everybody had a contact point and the money helped enable us to do that and so much more. It was really good for us.
“To be recognised by the Big Lottery like this is just amazing. They’ve used us as an exemplar. We are a benchmark and we’re still doing our level best to make people’s lives better."