More than 150 local people found a place to stay warm in the cold weather thanks to the work of a Tyneside charity and a four-figure grant from Newcastle Building Society.
St Martin’s Centre Partnership turned its community centre on Roman Avenue in Byker into a ‘warm hub’ right through the winter months to give vulnerable and older people in Byker and Walker somewhere to spend their time free of charge during the colder months.
More than 100 people visited the Centre during an average week, with a large proportion regularly spending the whole day on site.
The charity used the £3,000 Society grant to cover the cost of providing a hot meal, drinks and snacks to anyone who needed them.
The grant was provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network.
Built on the site of the old St Martin’s church, the purpose-built St Martin’s Centre opened in 2006 as a venue for a wide range of activities, with an older people’s project taking place five days a week and a befriending service that began during the pandemic continuing to extend its reach across the local community.
Other events and activities hosted at St Martin’s range from baby and young children groups, an on-site nursery and a volunteer project through to family support advice, employment and training support, and an affordable café.
The Centre is entirely grant-funded and needs to raise around £250,000 every year to cover its running costs.
Helen Twelves, director of finance at St Martin’s Centre Partnership, says: “We foresaw problems that were going to arise in our community as the winter rolled in and knew we needed to do what we could to help out.
“Providing a warm, welcoming space that people could visit any time they wanted without worrying about the cost, and where they could stay in as long as they wanted, took away a lot of the worry that our visitors might otherwise have been facing.
“The social side of this project has been just as important as any other part of it, with the chance to share time together and make new friends in a relaxed, friendly environment really helping to keep spirits up and improve visitors’ well-being.
“With a lot of money to raise every year and a lot of different costs to cover, we simply wouldn’t have been able to offer this additional help without Newcastle Building Society’s support and we’re grateful to have had them in our corner.”
Franco Di Pietro, head of intermediaries at Newcastle Building Society, adds: “St Martin’s recognition of and response to an urgent community need has made a huge difference to the well-being of more than 150 local people when they’ve needed it most.
“We’re very pleased to have been able to support the invaluable work of another amazing charity in our home city.”
Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund at the Community Foundation has also contributed over £2.3m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.
The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.