WE'RE BACK: Carer Debbie Leck with members of the Barnard Castle lunch club
WE'RE BACK: Carer Debbie Leck with members of the Barnard Castle lunch club

AN organisation which arranges weekly lunch clubs for the dale’s elderly has received a welcome financial shot in the arm.
The Association of Teesdale Day Clubs will use the cash – almost £20,000 – to relaunch a weekly lunchtime get-together in Startforth as well as help cover other running costs. The grant has come from a Teesdale Action Partnership fund to help community organisations recover from the effects of the pandemic. Officials are also waiting to hear if another bid for funds towards the association’s annual running costs of about £130,000, this time to the County Durham Community Foundation, has been successful.
All the lunch clubs were forced to close during the pandemic, with staff and volunteers launching a “phone a friend” service to check on members’ wellbeing.
A newsletter proved hugely popular, Christmas hampers were provided and meals were delivered to homes.
After Covid restrictions were lifted, only eight of the association’s ten lunch clubs resumed meetings.
The Stainton Grove club, which had moved to Bowes Lyons House, in Barnard Castle, before the pandemic, closed while Gainford and Winston merged and now meet at Winston Village Hall.
Andrea Hobbs, the association’s strategic manager, said: “Our recovery plan is to build back up and we are hoping to start a club using Startforth Community Centre.”
Ms Hobbs said a pre-Covid lunch club at Startforth – which was run independently of the association – had closed.
“Volunteers had moved on and they were not in a position to run it again themselves. They approached us during lockdown and asked if we could take it over.”
Ms Hobbs said it was hoped to run the Startforth lunch club from January.
A club leader and cook will be recruited for Startforth and Ms Hobbs said she was also keen sign up a pool of staff and volunteers who can cover for holidays and absences at the other clubs. She said since reopening, members had returned in good numbers.
“Of course, there have been some people who have struggled with having the confidence to come back, but in the main, most people were so desperate to get out and see their friends.
“We did not have any of the clubs that we could not have run because there were not enough people.”
All clubs apart from the Barnard Castle group, which meets on Tuesdays, have space for new people.
Lunch clubs meet from 11.30am to 2pm and the current programme is:
Monday: Woodland, in the village hall
Tuesday: Barnard Castle, in the cricket club; Staindrop, in the Scarth Hall
Wednesday: Cotherstone, in the village hall; Middleton-in-Teesdale, in the village hall
Thursday: Mickleton, in the village hall; Winston and Gainford, in Winston Village Hall
Friday: Evenwood, in the Randolph community centre
More information is at www.teesdaledayclubs.org.uk or by calling 01833 695822 – the office is not always staffed, but messages will be returned.