The High Sheriff Awards handed out a record £21,000 to a range of youth projects and community groups from County Durham and beyond – which was DOUBLED to £42,000 on the night, by The Sir Tom Cowie OBE Charitable Trust

Community organisations from County Durham have been recognised for the work they do to fight poverty and enrich the lives of young people across the region with an award from the High Sheriff of County Durham.

An annual event organised by County Durham Community Foundation, this year’s High Sheriff Awards took place at Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, at which 13 organisations were celebrated for the enormous difference they make in the community.

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of the County Durham Community Foundation, paid tribute to those organisations for persevering through difficult times and for “keeping the doors open and the lights on as best they can to provide a safe, trusted space for so many.”

Grants of between £3,000 and £1,000 were awarded to: Investing In Children, Go The Distance CIC, Durham Area Youth, Building Self Belief, Pelton Community Association, Derwentside Detached Youth Project, Jack Drum Arts, Oxhill Youth Club, 1st Burnmoor Scouts Group, Brandon Carrside Youth and Community Project, YMCA North Tyneside, Manilla Cycling, and A Way Out.

The Sir Tom Cowie OBE Charitable Trust announced on the evening that they would match the grants awarded as an exceptional donation to mark the 100th birthday of Sir Tom Cowie himself. This takes the total amount awarded to County Durham community groups to an unprecedented £42,000 – doubling the grant awarded to each group.

Michelle continued, “The need is increasing weekly, costs are rising for so many families and young people, and for the community groups that help them. That’s why the County Durham Community Foundation will continue to work hard to raise more money and get it into the hands of the brilliant community groups you have heard about tonight, and the many many hundreds more across the region that are enriching the lives of young people.”

Michelle also used the event to announce that the Poverty Hurts campaign – launched by the County Durham Community Foundation in December 2022 – had raised over £800,000, with £611,000 already handed out in grants.

“Our partnership with the High Sheriff means we’re able to make sure the funds we raise from campaigns like Poverty Hurts, can be given to people in County Durham who are doing the incredible and necessary work of supporting our communities.”

Guests attending the ceremony were greeted by fire-eaters, jugglers, high-fliers, balancing acts and magicians, with compere Peter Barron dressed as a circus ringmaster. 

The High Sheriff Awards are organised by County Durham Community Foundation, with support from the Sir James Knott Trust, The Banks Group, Darlington Building Society, UK Steel Enterprise, Durham Constabulary, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, The Willan Charitable Trust, the former Durham Shopping Extravaganza, and the current High Sheriff of County Durham, Shona Harper-Wilkes.

Mrs Harper-Wilkes was unable to attend and was represented by former High Sheriff, Robert Harle. The Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, Sue Snowdon, also attended, along with other civic dignitaries.