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“This is an amazing community. People are really generous.”

A painting drawn by a volunteer summed up the project perfectly. The church building on an island amidst a dark, crashing ocean.

The sea was filled with all the words people felt before they found the project: ‘darkness’, ‘chaos’, ‘scared’.

The sunny sky was filled with all the words they felt after: ‘acceptance’, ‘love’, ‘encouragement’.

Willington Open Door Methodist has been a real community hub for the village in recent years, and the whole team found the painting really moving.

Working tirelessly, the team has brought hope to many local residents since the pandemic started. Now they are rallying again to bring people back together.

With a £3,000 grant from County Durham Community Foundation, the church’s Our Confident Community project was able to help 550 plus people of all ages with food packages and delivered hot meals to those too vulnerable or frightened to leave home.

Volunteer Sue Hine explained: “When the lockdowns started, it was at a time when we would normally be preparing to help families through Easter with a holiday hunger project. Suddenly we were hearing from all of these older people who couldn’t get food because all the online slots were booked up, so another Church member who used to run a café and a team of volunteers  came together and started delivering hot meals.

“Before the pandemic we’d only had very small amounts of funding, so we were grateful to everyone, including the Foundation, who enabled us to do what we did.”

“We still do FareShare [a nation-wide organisation that shares surplus food with charities to reduce food poverty and waste] and our food bank but we do not want to encourage dependency and so we are focusing on activities that help people to feel confident and less isolated.”

The church runs a community café, men’s breakfast, a happiness hub, Thai Chi classes, craft sessions and a carer and toddlers’ group.

Sue said: “Some of the greatest need we are seeing is from working families on low incomes. Their lives have been devastated by losing work, changing jobs and rising bills.

“People who were fine before the pandemic have lost confidence, lost the ability to communicate or make a phone call, struggle more financially and feel more anxious.”

The team has seen real hope and generosity coming from local people who want to help, and the project has come to mean so much to the local community, hence the painting drawn by a volunteer, which now is displayed in the Church.

Sue added: “As a church we have come to know some incredible individuals with generous hearts. This is an amazing community. People are really generous, even when they have their own difficulties, and seeing individuals flourish and find a way to contribute is lovely. The volunteer team are like a big family and that’s what they call each other. They are very supportive of each other.

“We have seen some wonderful things despite the hardship; volunteers finding great jobs again after regaining their confidence; and people joining in who were once so frightened that they wouldn’t be welcome or accepted.”


(1) No Poverty (2) Zero Hunger (3) Good Health and Wellbeing (10) Reduced Inequalities

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