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Funding boost for Soup-a-Gran work

Project volunteers Katrina Jack and Andrea Kilross with Stephen Burt, manager of Newcastle Building Society's North Shields branch.
Project volunteers Katrina Jack and Andrea Kilross with Stephen Burt, manager of Newcastle Building Society's North Shields branch.

A North Tyneside charity is increasing its drive to tackle social isolation among older people thanks to a grant from Newcastle Building Society.

The Cedarwood Trust works to raise the aspirations and change the lives of people living on the Meadow Well Estate, and runs a range of programmes and projects which support residents who experience some of the North East’s highest levels of deprivation.

One of the Trust’s most successful schemes is the Soup-A-Gran project, which started two years ago as a way of ensuring vulnerable older people on the estate could be provided with both a regular hot meal and some much-needed company.

A team of volunteers, most of whom are over 50, meets every Wednesday at the Trust’s Avon Avenue drop-in centre to prepare the meals, which are then quickly delivered to a growing list of local recipients.

The number of Soup-A-Gran service users quickly grew from an initial dozen to around 35, with potential participants being put forward by friends and neighbours. The Trust has been investigating how it might be able to double this number during 2018.

After being nominated by a customer at Newcastle Building Society’s Bedford Street branch in North Shields, a £2,500 grant has been given to the Trust to support the planned expansion of its work.

Stephen Burt, branch manager, said: “Being able to support the Cedarwood Trust’s invaluable work in this way ties in perfectly with our commitment to supporting our local communities.”

The funding has been provided by 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.

The Cedarwood Trust is also helping the project volunteers to gain training and qualifications in food hygiene and health & safety which helps increase their confidence and improve their employability.

Chief executive Phil McGrath says: “Many of the people that use the Soup-A-Gran service are unable to leave their homes unaided to shop for food or to prepare a meal for themselves.

“This project not only ensures they get at least one nutritious hot meal each week, but that they can also benefit from a bit of company that they might not otherwise get, which can often be just as important.

“We’ve grown the service so far purely through word of mouth, and know that we could be making even more of a difference to our neighbours if we could access the resources we need to do so, but with food costs continuing to rise, this goal has been out of our reach until now.

“We get lots of really positive feedback from the people that we come into contact with through the Soup-A-Gran project, and the funding we’ve received from Newcastle Building Society will ensure even more older residents on the estate can benefit from being part of it.”

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 customers who wish to support their local communities.

Since its launch in 2016, the Fund has contributed £142,000 in grants to projects across the Society’s North East and Cumbria heartland, and is so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 77,000 people.