VOLUNTEERS joined forces in Newton Aycliffe over the festive period to feed those facing financial hardship or Christmas alone.

Nearly 100 people were able to eat a Christmas dinner free of charge thanks to teams behind two charities - the Hub of Wishes and Junction 7, a project run by County Durham Tees Valley Rescue Mission.

Mental health service the Hub of Wishes held festive meals at their base, in Silverdale Place, for 30 people on December 13 and for 18 on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile Junction 7, also based at Silverdale Place, delivered dinners as well as hosted a lunch on Christmas Day for more than 70 people at Neville Community Centre.

Jane Johnson, of Junction 7, which operates a food bank and a range of services to help the town’s residents, said: “Everyone enjoyed the day. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone that contributed to the day.

“Also a big thank you to the volunteers that gave up their Christmas Day to help and to Junction 7 group members who as always put people first for their community.”

Although the day was a success, Ms Johnson added the loneliness of residents was highlighted “several times”.

“One lady cried when she was taken home,” she added. “She had enjoyed herself but the thought of being back home alone upset her.”

Junction 7 hopes to organise similar events in the future including a weekly event to combat loneliness.

She said: “We had various ages at the dinner. Loneliness is not just among older people. The intergeneration was captured and noted during the day.”

As well as traditional lunches at the Hub of Wishes, made possible with a grant of £700 by housing group Livin, the charity also used the funds to host a trip to York Christmas Festival.

The annual lunch earlier in December and the inaugural event on December 25 were hailed a success, thanks to volunteers, and are hoped to be continued.

A spokesperson said: “Really, this has made such a difference to Hub of Wishes members this last year and we cannot thank Livin enough.

"Christmas can be such a difficult, emotional time for people, especially in addition to their mental health issues. "Our centre provides a safe, friendly place where people can discuss their problems or worries. Everyone is supported.”

For more information about the Hub of Wishes call 01325-300121 and for information about Junction 7 email junc7tion@gmail.com