charity largeCharity begins at homelessness for business owners and professionals who have raised money for an organisation that provides accommodation and support services for vulnerable people in Darlington.

A dinner organised and co-hosted by Newtons Solicitors in Darlington and Handelsbanken Darlington saw 140 lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and other professionals raise £1,400, which the two businesses agreed should be shared between two local charities.

Newtons Solicitors’ chosen charity was the 700 Club, which runs hostels and a range of services for homeless people in the town.

Newtons director Joanne Cowie explained: “This is the second year we’ve held the Darlington Professionals Dinner and we are delighted that it was so well supported by so many local businesses, which included

Santander, Savills, Darlington Building Society, Latimer Hinks, Clive Owen, Atkinson White and Hewitts.

“The other £700 from the event will be donated to a local education centre supporting children with Down’s Syndrome, nominated by Handelsbanken.”

Gareth Jones, director at the law firm which is based in Coniscliffe Road, added “We are supported by the local and business community around us and we think we should give something back to those in need within the community. We also wanted to support smaller charities that don’t have the fundraising infrastructure of bigger organisations”

The extent and range of services provided by the 700 Club and other providers means that it is not necessary for anyone in Darlington to sleep on the streets, according to chief executive John Elliston.

He explained: “We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year having started as a charity that began by asking 700 local people to give £50 to provide accommodation for homeless people.

“That ethos of the community sustaining and supporting people within the community who are having difficulties remains but, of course, we need more than 700 people to support our work now”

Mr Elliston added: “The donation to the 700 Club from the dinner will be used to help fund The Lodge, a 13-room short term, transitional house providing emergency accommodation, which was developed three years ago after a client suggested to the charity that such provision was needed in Darlington.

“The 700 Club takes pride in being a needs-led organisation and this is a perfect example of that.” 700 Club services manager Yvonne Beattie said: "Bed-nights are spot purchased by agencies like the Local

Authority who refer people into the service. Some, however, don’t qualify for funding so we fill that gap when they turn up on our doorstep in need of a bed and some breakfast and then we signpost them to where they can get further support.

“The Lodge is staffed 24/7 and people can access it day or night 365 days a year. It offers more than a bed – it is a place where people begin to rebuild their lives.”

The 700 Club also has 29 units in two hostels in Darlington for homeless people who can stay for up to a year. The charity helps them to access employment, education or training and cultivates life skills so they can live independently on leaving the hostel.