A successful Durham City lunch club for older local residents is set to carry on for another year thanks to funding from the local branch of Newcastle Building Society.
 
Laurel Avenue Community Association set up its weekly Lunch Club in 2016 to provide older people living on the Sherburn Road estate in Durham and in other surrounding communities with opportunities to enjoy some regular time together while enjoying a two course hot meal.
 
The Club is available to users for a small fee, with the money raised used to fund annual trips out for group members.
 
Volunteer drivers picking up anyone who needs help with transport to and from the Laurel Avenue Community Centre, and activities including bingo, painting and social history sessions on Durham’s past are also put on as part of each week’s get-together.
 
Up to 25 people having been taking part in the weekly sessions, which are being run with support from Gilesgate Residents Association, the King’s Church in Durham and volunteers from Durham University, and trained befrienders are on hand to provide any support required to anyone attending.
 
After successfully being nominated for a grant by Joe Knight, a customer at Newcastle Building Society’s Elvet Bridge branch, a £1,000 grant has now enabled the Community Association to cover the cost of renting the room it uses for the lunches for a second year, and will also add to its food budget for the year to come.
 
The funding has been provided from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups that are located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.
 
Since its launch in 2016, the Fund has contributed £78,000 in grants to local projects, and is estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 70,000 people across the North East region so far.
 
Claire Linfoot, centre manager at Laurel Avenue Community Association, says: “Tackling social isolation through initiatives like our lunch club can make a massive difference to the health and well-being of older people who might not otherwise get the chance to speak to anyone for days at a time, and the nutrition side of the project adds an important extra dimension to what we do.
 
“The activities we put on go down really well, especially when the group talks about the ways life in the city has changed since they were younger, and a real sense of positivity comes out of the days that we spend together.
 
“We initially had enough money to run the project for a year, and the generous support we’ve had from the Society has taken away all the worries we had about meeting the basic costs of putting on the lunch club for a further 12 months, which means we’ll be able to get on with making the most we can of our weekly sessions.”
 
Joe Knight, who is vice chair of the Laurel Avenue Community Association management committee, adds: “The lunch club provides a chance for older people who might not have family close by, or who may not be as mobile as they once were, to get out and socialise with other local residents, and this is just as important for their well-being as the nutrition they get from the lunches.”
 
The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.  Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the newcastle.co.uk website by Society customers who wish to support their local communities.
 
Last year, the Fund provided a £1,500 grant to enable Durham-headquartered charity Henry Dancer Days to extend a special storytelling project to help young cancer patients during their treatment at the Great North Children’s Hospital’s paediatric oncology unit.
 
Steven Hillary, branch manager at the Society’s Elvet Bridge branch in Durham, says: “Many of our customers have friends or family who go along to the Laurel Avenue lunch club, and they tell us just how much they enjoy their time there.
 
“Supporting the communities in which we’re based is a central part of what the Society is about, and this is a brilliant way for us to benefit dozens of people from around our area.”
 

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