A Newcastle charity is tackling social isolation among local older people with the help of a four-figure donation from Newcastle Building Society.
YMCA Newcastle is running a free friendship group which gives local residents aged 55 and over the chance to spend some time and meet new people in a friendly welcoming environment.
Up to 25 people attend the weekly group, which takes place at Walker Parish Church and includes a free lunch, as well as activities such as bingo, quizzes and outings.
The charity is using a grant of £4,798 to cover the annual staff and food costs of running the group, which would have had to fold without the Society’s support, and is ready to welcome any other local people who’d like to be part of it.
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.
YMCA Newcastle is the oldest independent youth charity in the city, but works with people of all ages on a range of different projects and activities.
It focuses on four different areas – family and youth work, health and wellbeing, support and advice, and training and education – and supports around 4,200 people across the city every year.
The charity’s work is backed up by a team of committed volunteers, while it also works in partnership with regional adult social care provider KeyRing to ensure vulnerable older local people are receiving all the support they need.
Roberta Davidson, community team member at YMCA Newcastle, says: “We look at what all the different parts of our community needs and try to develop events, activities and initiatives which respond to these needs.
“Some of the older people that we welcome to our sessions live in local care homes, while others live independently in the local community and quite often tell us that coming to our sessions is the only time they get out during the week.
“Tackling social isolation in this way makes a big difference to the wider health and well-being of our members, some of whom have very little contact with other people through the rest of the week.
“We involve everyone on choosing the different meals that we provide each week, as well as the various activities we run, and we know from members’ feedback just how much of a positive impact our sessions have.
“Without the funding we’ve had from Newcastle Building Society, we simply wouldn’t have been able to keep running this group, but now we’re looking to invite even more local people along to spend some time with us.
Lynn Richardson, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Gosforth High Street branch, adds: “A few hours spent in good company can make a big difference to anyone, but the positive impact will be even greater if you’re not getting the chance to do this very often.
“YMCA Newcastle has recognised a growing community need in our home city and we’re very pleased to be able to help them continue to meet it.”
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.