HOT meals are being delivered to the doors of elderly residents across County Durham thanks to an army of volunteers.

Community groups are preparing and distributing food to older people who are self-isolating with support from Durham County Council’s Area Action Partnerships.

The council made £1.4m available to its 14 AAPs as part of a COViD-19 assistance fund to help local organisations respond to the pandemic.

One group to benefit was the team at Sherburn Community Centre which got more than £4,000 from Durham AAP towards the cost of food, a new freezer and PPE such as gloves, hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial surface cleaner.

The Northern Echo: Some of Fishburn’s volunteers ready to deliver meals direct to residentsSome of Fishburn’s volunteers ready to deliver meals direct to residents

The team normally run a weekly lunch club for residents but is now using the community centre to prepare meals every Tuesday and Friday, which are delivered to more than 70 people in nearby villages for a small fee.

Judith Barrass, one of the volunteer cooks, said: “At this terrible time many people can’t leave their homes because they have to self-isolate. The volunteers are providing a hot meal and a dessert on a Tuesday and Friday. These meals are for people over 60 who have to self-isolate for various reasons and feel vulnerable.

“Without the grant and everything it provides we wouldn’t be able to do this and get the meals safely delivered by our wonderful volunteer drivers to all who need this in Sherburn Village. At present we have a waiting list and we wish we could feed everyone who needs this but we are doing the best we can”.

The Northern Echo: Sherburn’s volunteers ready to deliver hot meals to local residentsSherburn’s volunteers ready to deliver hot meals to local residents

Durham AAP coordinator Craig Morgan said: “As soon as it became apparent that older people were having to self-isolate the volunteers at Sherburn community centre got themselves organised and were delivering hot meals to vulnerable people very quickly.

"We had recently supported the centre with a grant to improve their kitchen facilities, so we knew they were set up to prepare the food. Their fantastic efforts are making sure that older people in the village are getting a good meal twice a week."

Fishburn Youth and Community Centre has also benefitted from funding from the East Durham Rural Corridor AAP.

It received £558 to buy kitchen equipment in order to meet demand for its hot meal delivery service, which has been making almost 50 meals a day. For £3 older villagers get a hot meal and dessert, delivered by volunteers.

Maureen and Rebekha Waltret, who are part of the service, said: “This is what community spirit is all about. We are fortunate enough to have an amazing group of volunteers, without whom we simply could not operate.

“There’s no greater gift than showing the community where you live that you care and that someone will be there to help when it is most needed. A warm meal presented with a familiar friendly face gives comfort and a touch of human kindness.”

Fishburn and Sherburn community centre teams are two of around 90 local projects supported by the AAPs to provide food to communities across the county.

Councillor Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “It is fantastic to see how much of a difference the coronavirus assistance fund is making to our communities. Without these local groups and services, these difficult times would be even more isolating for so many people, particularly those who are shielding.

“I’m very grateful for the efforts of everyone who is volunteering and doing their bit for their local areas, right across the county, and I know that is shared by those who they are supporting.”

For more information on the council’s COViD-19 assistance fund, or your local AAP, visit the council’s website