As well as delivering 165 meals a day, volunteers and staff from Handcrafted are also supporting people with their mental health, feelings of loneliness and problems made worse by the pandemic.  

Harry Jennings, Handcrafted’s Business Development Officer, said: “The daily meals and weekly food parcels we offer are a really practical kind of help, but what we’re doing goes further than that. The people we are supporting right now know they can rely on us to turn up and have a chat with them about what’s going on – even if it means shouting over a garden fence!  

“During these unprecedented times, we’ve found ourselves in a unique position to help a huge section of the County and we’re actually been able to reach a much wider area which is exciting. We’re covering the County as far as Seaham, Consett and Newton Aycliffe and we’ve told everyone that our support and meals will continue throughout lockdown. We are excited that we can support the most isolated at this time and invite people to join us long term.”  

Handcrafted started in 2011 and offers supported housing for 29 people experiencing social isolation. Through cooking classes and carpentry workshops, a supportive community and practical activities help to build confidence, skills and friendship.  

Thanks to a grant of just under £5,000 from County Durham Community Foundation, the charity has been able to keep staff and volunteers on board for outreach work, and recruit eight new volunteers to help with deliveries. From visiting 35 individuals a day, they are now reaching 180 people a day.  

They are delivering food and support to people who are the most isolated – those struggling with addiction, experiencing domestic abuse and recovering from cancer. Support includes help with gas and electric payments, help with phone credit so people can keep in touch and simple conversations so people feel less isolated.   

Harry added: “We might not be able to fix everything that a person is going through, but if we are there for five minutes and can make someone smile, that’s five minutes of relief that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.”  

To deliver healthy food, Handcrafted has teamed up with social enterprise REfUSE: turning unwanted and donated food into delicious meals.  

Funding for the project came from the National Emergency Trust (NET) appeal which has now raised £40million.  Community Foundations across the country are distributing the money, and to date, County Durham Community Foundation has now made awards to 135 groups. More grants are being approved every day.   

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of the Foundation, said: “So many people need groups like Handcrafted so they can be part of something, build friendships and find confidence in their skills. The lockdown is leaving many feeling isolated and desperate, but groups like Handcrafted are offering real hope by staying positive and actually expanding their work. This is crucial work, and we are proud to support it through our partnership with the NET and the generosity of the British public.”