Members of the Silver Link project smile at the camera

An initiative aimed at tackling loneliness in a seaside resort has been given a secure future thanks to a generous donation by Darlington Building Society.

The Silver Link project, run at Redcar by The Link Charitable Trust, has been awarded £5,967 as part of the Society’s annual pledge – supported by County Durham Community Foundation – to donate 5% of its profits to good causes in the community.

The project, launched at the end of the pandemic, was the idea of 76-year-old volunteer Christine Wilson, a member at the Society’s Redcar branch, who wanted to launch a weekly social group for over-60s.

Christine, whose mother was also a loyal Darlington Building Society member, has described the social group as a “lifeline” to the club members, adding: “We rely on funding to keep it going and this grant from Darlington Building Society means we can plan ahead with confidence. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity.”

An average of 20 club members meet every Wednesday lunchtime at The Palace Hub, on Redcar seafront, to enjoy conversation, and a range of activities, including bingo, raffles, quizzes, chair exercises, and tai chi.

Members also went on two bus trips last summer – one to Beamish Museum, and the other to Boundary Mills shopping centre at Newcastle. Thanks to the donation from Darlington Building Society, four trips are being planned this year.

Hannah Moloney, business manager for The Link Charitable Trust, said: “There’s no doubt that The Silver Link project is enriching the lives of older people who have become isolated. It’s been a huge success in helping people make new friends and lifting spirits – and that’s priceless.

“The grant from Darlington Building Society gives us the security of knowing we can plan ahead for the rest of the year and stretch the benefits of the service even further.”

As well as helping to fund this year’s bus trips, the grant will also help pay for the weekly sessions to be staffed, as well as the rental on the meeting room.

Marie Gray joined the social group after losing 12 family members, including her mother and brother, within 26 months.

Marie said: “I was my mother’s main carer and, when she died, I found myself at a loose end. I was feeling low and isolated, and this group has helped me get back on track. As soon as I walked in, the atmosphere was so friendly, it felt like home. What Darlington Building Society has done for us is just brilliant.”

Darlington Building Society’s Redcar branch manager, Mike Dean, said: “We’re thrilled to have been able to support a fantastic local project, right at the heart of our community, that’s making such a huge difference in tackling social isolation.”