A NORTH-EAST charity with a history dating back to 1838 held an afternoon tea with a feast of entertainment as a way of combating isolation in the over-80s.

Darlington Town Mission hosted the afternoon for 25 ‘Friends’ at Elm Ridge Methodist Church as part of a series of activities aimed at tackling the crisis of loneliness amongst elderly people in the town.

It was only the second event staged by the Mission since the lockdown, and the charity also offers home and hospital visits to over 80-year-olds who are known as ‘Friends’.

They enjoyed hearing songs from the Reid Street Primary School choir, including ‘I’m Still Standing’, which won them the top prize at the Mayor’s Junior Song Contest earlier this year.

The Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Cyndi Hughes, was also in attendance, along with the Junior Mayor, Phoebe Morris, from Northwood Primary, and Deputy Junior Mayor, Ellie Thompson, from Mount Pleasant Primary.

Councillor Hughes said: “I know that being here today means a lot to all of you. It’s clear how valuable the Mission is to the town, and I would personally like to thank all the volunteers for everything they do.”

There was also entertainment from Darlington Town Mission Vice-Chair and Acting Secretary, Brian Simpson, who sang songs with Carol Birkbeck who also accompanied on piano and ukulele.

A delicious tea was served by missioners and volunteers, along with members of BHP Law, which is sponsoring the charity.

Dermot Winters, Partner at BHP Law and Darlington Town Mission trustee, said: “As one of the longest-established law firms in the North-East, we are honoured to be able to support the longest-established charity in Darlington. It’s a fantastic organisation that does superb work.”

Julia Bean, a trustee at the charity for ten years, is keen to encourage more people to get involved.

“It has been very tough for everyone through the pandemic, but especially for the elderly. During that time, all our social events and visits came to a stop, which was very hard for our friends living alone or in care homes.

“We eventually were able to visit and speak to them on doorsteps, and call them on the phone, but it’s not the same as being able to get out and meet other people.

“We’re delighted that we’re now getting back to our full events programme, but we have a waiting list of potential Friends who would like to join our events.

“Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough volunteers to be able to expand our offering.”