A FESTIVE gift from Durham’s freemen has helped secure the future of three volunteer-run foodbanks operating in the city.

Durham Christian Partnership runs 27 independently operated foodbanks across county.

While grocery parcels offered to the needy are donated through public generosity, the organisation also needs cash for operational continuity.

A £250 donation from Durham City Freemen will boost funds covering overheads for the city’s three centres, in Waddington Street and at Elvet Methodist and Sunderland Road Baptist churches.

The partnership’s chief executive officer, Peter MacLellan, said: “Four dozen volunteers receive and sort the foodstuffs handed in by the public which are prepared into parcels providing provisions for three days.

“The fare we offer is also reinforced by foodstuffs from commercial organisations, including supermarkets.

“Cash donations are a vital part of helping meet rental and other costs, which include three full-time staff members involved in running a central warehouse, training and supervising volunteers.”

In addition to immediate help with food supplies, the partnership also offers specialist debt and benefit advice services through Community Money Advice County Durham and works closely with Citizens’ Advice and other related organisations.

“Thanks to local generosity we have never had to turn anyone away for lack of food donations and at this time of year we have tried to include seasonal additions like Christmas puddings and cakes. Donations are always very welcome,” added Mr MacLellan.

Similar donations have been made by the freemen for two other organisations in the city.

Laurel Avenue Association, a lockdown-hit community association battling to maintain core activities in an area facing severe deprivation, was also handed a £250 cash windfall by the freemen.

The association, a registered charity, operating from a building adjacent to the local primary school, on Sherburn Road, must raise funds to meet all its running costs, which has proved particularly hard this year.

Despite the financial squeeze its luncheon club still delivers to more than two dozen senior citizens, has served up 125 daily food packs to children eligible for free school meals during half term and provided i-pads to allow youngsters to study at home.

Volunteers also pulled together a Christmas contingency plan, targeting families facing redundancy or struggling on low incomes. The plan included visits from Santa and gifts of inexpensive toys, including lego, jigsaws and stationery.

Patrick Conway, who chairs the association’s management committee, said: “While Covid has severely restricted our work at the centre, local volunteers, observing social distancing rules, have been active in visiting residents and providing support as required.

“We knew Christmas would be challenging financially for many families and this enabled the association to provide some festive cheer.”

The third charity to benefit from the freemen’s seasonal batch of £250 awards was the independently run Durham Action on Single Housing (DASH).

It provides more than 50 bed spaces across the county, some in the city, accommodating people aged between 16 and 65.

Additionally, they offer a supportive environment for vulnerable women with multiple and complex needs, helping them access housing and other support services.

Trevor Atkinson, DASH’s business development manager, is one of 18 full and part-time staff backed by 20 volunteers.

He said: “We offer single homeless people and those at risk of homelessness gain more stability in their lives and look to move them on to permanent accommodation.

“At the same time we reduce costs to other services, like the NHS, social services and the prison service.

“Our funding comes from the county council, the generosity of people like freemen, charitable activities and events organised by businesses, churches,