A CHURCH project supporting the vulnerable and delivering a range of community projects is celebrating a cash boost from the Big Lottery which will help it continue its work in a County Durham town, while expanding its services.

St John’s Church’s Shildon Alive Project has been awarded a further £378,341 from the Big Lottery, bringing the total raised to three quarters of a million pounds in five years.

Shildon Alive, was launched in 2012 by Reverend Canon David Tomlinson, priest in charge of St. John’s Church in the town, with the help of the Big Lottery and local enthusiasm.

Canon David said: “Shildon is the kind of place that has a great sense of community but few opportunities.

“Shildon Alive was launched after a listening process that engaged with the town at multiple levels and saw the opening of the first two community gardens in 2011 and a Foodbank in 2013.”

Growth and awards, both local and national, followed as the outstanding nature of the work undertaken began to be recognised.

The Big Lottery announced today that it will continue to fund the project, with the additional grant of £378,341 spread over a four-year period.

This grant will not only ensure Shildon Alive continues to support the vulnerable, build community, and challenge injustice it will allow the project to expand in new ways.

With a centre of food and finance solidarity to be opened early in 2019, Shildon Alive will be building on its experience by continuing to enable local people to care for local people.

Canon David added: “Since our launch we have drawn down around three-quarters of a million pounds in grant funding to enable people in our town to volunteer, support each other and grow in skills and understanding.

“We have seen almost every school child in the town engaged with growing food, we have taken the lead in challenging loan sharks, loneliness and food waste.”

“We have encouraged a culture of sharing, for example, running a ‘coats for all’ campaign, sharing good stories, teaching skills such as cookery.

He added: “We might be in the bottom 5 per cent economically but when it comes to looking out for each other we are in a different league altogether.”

“The new food solidarity centre will enable us to continue the mission that Jesus began, one in which no person need go hungry, or cold, or be a prisoner to loneliness or addiction.”

In August this year Shildon Alive gave away its largest number of meals in one month with 1084 meals given to families struggling over the summer.

Almost 10 per cent of the town’s population used the foodbank last year with many more using the food waste donated from supermarkets to supplement low wages or benefits.

Shildon Alive Project co-ordinator, Paula Nelson said: “The latest grant is fantastic news as the work we have started is now secured for at least another four years.

“Through this grant we will see more people contributing to the community, moving from food poverty, and engaging in healthy lifestyle choices.

“Enabling financial resilience through sharing practices around confident planning and good choices will be taught from primary schools right through into adulthood while supporting people to abandon destructive habits is key.”