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Poverty Hurts: East Durham charity provides bait for mates.

A £2,000 grant from the Poverty Hurts Fund is helping Dawdon Youth and Community Centre provide hot meals and emergency food parcels.

The community hub helps many veterans and people who are homeless stay well fed so that they can survive the cost-of-living crisis.

Funding, raised through the Poverty Hurts Appeal, means the centre can open its food bank for seven days instead of two.

Demand for food has risen sharply, and the centre’s team also deliver to people’s homes. Craft and woodwork sessions are still running, giving people enjoyable activities when times are so hard, and a place where they will be welcomed warmly.

Mates ‘n’ Baits runs every week and serve homecooked food to 35 residents free of charge. Corned beef pie with mash and pies is one menu favourite, and takeaway food parcels are offered too.

Centre manager Marion McKenna explained why the Friday lunchtime session is a lifeline for many.

She said: “These sessions are a massive benefit to often very, very vulnerable people.”

“Almost everyone is feeling the cost-of-living crisis right now. Latest figures for September 2022 show there has been a big increase in the number of requests for food parcels from the centre.

“We try to make meals for nothing out of what we have. We batch cook and freeze to be more economical and have bought more freezers to help with that. Nothing is wasted.”

Around half the regular attendees at Mates ‘n’ Baits are veterans, and some are homeless or have mental health problems. As well as good food, the sessions are important in providing company and friendship. The centre team also use the sessions to see if there are other ways they can help.

Marion added: “As part of the wraparound welfare service provided by the centre, people are helped to check on the benefits they may be eligible for. They can get advice on making things go further, from fuel to clothes and food.”

Support from County Durham Community Foundation has made a big difference to the centre, according to Marion.

She said: “It has gone from strength to strength, particularly since we started working with the foundation seven years ago. It’s always been really supportive of our work. I’ll get a message from the staff asking if we’d like something. We’re in a very deprived area and it’s been great.”

Support For All

But the positivity of this East Durham project doesn’t end there.

Marion said: “We like to say we cater for people aged nought to 99 and the local community is very generous. People who have the least seem to give the most.

“If you think, when you’ve got nothing, with a baby in the house and can’t put your electric on, you can come to the centre. Then when you turn things around and you are back in employment, to come back to us and say ‘you helped me and we want to help you’. I still get emotional.”

Dawdon Youth and Community Centre is open on weekdays from 8am to 5pm, with youth sessions in the evenings, and shorter periods at weekends depending on the activities taking place.

(1) No Poverty (2) Zero Hunger (10) Reduced Inequalities

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