Caring for our community in Durham

For 25 years, one Durham charity has been supporting communities through small grants that make a big difference. But the global pandemic helped the team find a new gear when it comes to giving.

The first grant was made within 48 hours of lockdown, and over the next 120 days, £1.3million was given to the groups at the heart of helping people through COVID-19.

Each grant fuelled the food parcel services, prescription pick-ups and suicide prevention launched by groups across the county. Funding this flood of support was a Durham charity that has been in the business of giving for 25 years.

County Durham Community Foundation was founded by people who love, live and breathe County Durham, and wanted to give back to those in need. Today, the Foundation has the support of local businesses, individuals and organisations who feel just the same: and to date has awarded £46million in grassroots grants.

The collective power of that generosity, mixed with the local knowledge and best practice of the Foundation’s small team, proved unstoppable when the pandemic struck.

Chief Executive Michelle Cooper said: “We knew we had to act fast and the team responded in a way I will never forget. We spoke to the groups we fund, and some that we haven’t, and a great many of them wanted to help their communities and had thought of a way to do it. Our donors were quick to come on board too, releasing restrictions on their usual funds so we could start making grants.”

The National Emergencies Trust chose to use the UK’s network of community foundations to distribute money – more than £65million – raised through a national appeal.

Michelle added: “At that point we really moved up a gear and managed to get £1.3million out to groups in Durham, Darlington and Tees Valley in just 120 days. “I think I can look back now and say we were able to do that because of our generous supporters, and because we are so established. There’s that one person in every community who goes above and beyond and we know those people. They have terrific energy and ideas that really help, and through the pandemic we’ve seen them rise up and do the seemingly impossible.

“We think we’ve been able to show how powerful a Community Foundation is at bringing the right people together – those who want to give and those who want to help.

“When times are easier we can help reduce inequalities, and when times are tough we can stop people falling off the edge altogether.”

Very soon we’ll be sharing exciting news with you about how we’re partnering with Durham County Community Foundation to launch the Life InDurham Fund – stay tuned for updates coming soon. For now, here’s some great stories about how community groups, good causes and local charities across County Durham have benefited through the Community Foundation’s work…

Isabelle’s Shed

When one young Durham carer needed a place to get away, County Durham Community Foundation stepped in.

Isabelle* cares for her mum, and her dad has also been diagnosed with a serious illness. With her daily caring duties, Isabelle gets less time to play with her friends, and suffers from panic attacks. Bridge Young Carers asked Isabelle what would help her when she was feeling down  or stressed.  “A shed,” came the answer.

A grant of £672 was awarded by the Foundation to build a stable base for a summer house in Isabelle’s back garden -a place where she can relax and gather her thoughts.

Isabelle said: “I enjoyed helping painting, building and finally putting my personal touches
to my shed. This shed has been a fantastic help for me and my parents, as it gives me somewhere to go away from the house, which now has a lot of medical equipment. It gives me a break from caring.”

*names have been changed

Dire Need

Lifeline Community Action supports County Durham families in dire need.

The charity has had several grants from County Durham Community Foundation over the years that it uses to fund cleaning packs, bedding and baby packs to people on low incomes

Pauline Chambers from the charity said: “If a child has the bad luck to be born into a family where there’s no money for food or clothes, do we just let them do without? It’s not right and they grow up thinking poverty is normal and they get used to having nothing. We try to change that as best we can.

“A lot of families are choosing between the rent, food and things for the children, and they don’t want their children to be without. If we can help them with something like uniform it can stop them getting into rent arrears and losing their home.”

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We’ll be sharing more about our brand-new Life InDurham Fund in due course and well as details about how you can get involved. For now, if you’d like to know a little more, you can check out our specially created Life InDurham Fund page on our website and watch this short video [link to YouTube].

* A version of this article first appeared in the debut edition of brand new publication, Life InDurham. To read the original article and to view the full edition, click here.