15 December 2019
Five years ago, when mum-of-four Jo Durkin was facing financial difficulties, she was shocked by the lack of support available for families like hers. “It was during this time I made a promise to myself that when I was back on my feet, I would do my best to make sure no other family had to struggle like mine did,” Jo says.
It was a promise she more than delivered on. With friend Angie Comerford, Jo set Hebburn Helps up four years ago, and since then the charity has grown from providing boxes of tinned food to a just a few local families in crisis, to serving hundreds of vulnerable families across Hebburn each week.
Alongside managing an emergency food, clothing and hygiene bank, Hebburn Helps also runs a play scheme, the Grub Club, during half term and over the summer holidays, when families on low incomes can no longer access the safety net of free school meals. Last summer alone, the Grub Club provided more than 2,000 nutritious meals for children and families in Hebburn, alongside plenty of fun activities.
Hebburn is a small town in the North East. Almost one in five (18%) children live in severe poverty, with many more families living hand to mouth.
Susie* works as a nurse and has taken home food parcels from Hebburn Helps. She also brings her nine-year-old son, Adam*, to the Grub Club. “It can be really hard as a single mum, especially because my job doesn’t always guarantee me enough shifts,” she explains.
“Sometimes I have had to go without to make sure there’s enough there for Adam. But he has noticed that I’ve skipped meals before and he knows I struggle. It’s not something a nine-year-old should have to worry about. That’s why Angie and Jo and Hebburn Helps are so lovely. We can come to the Grub Club, chat with other mums and kids and eat together – and that’s one less meal I have to worry about that day. They’ve helped us out a lot.”
Angie and Jo run Hebburn Helps on an entirely voluntary basis, so they are always looking for ways they can work with the community to make savings and continue providing their services.
Hebburn Helps has been accessing FareShare surplus food for around two years now. Alongside their FareShare Go membership – which connects supermarkets to local charities and alerts them when there is surplus food available in-store – earlier this year Angie and Jo also signed up to receive food from their local Regional Centre, after FareShare North East relocated to a new, bigger warehouse funded by Asda.
Jo said: “It’s brilliant what FareShare gives us. We couldn’t have provided so many meals this summer without them. Before FareShare, our foodbank relied mostly on donations from the community and whilst it’s brilliant to have their support, with FareShare we’re able to provide a wider range of items.”
Angie adds: “We also pick up from our local Asda store each week. The food we receive from Asda is really valuable for the families we support – especially the bread.”
Earlier this year, FareShare North East opened a new warehouse, funded by Asda. Alongside the warehouse, Asda also funded a new van and chiller through Fight Hunger Create Change.
Jake Hanmore, general manager of FareShare North East, said: “Thanks to Asda’s support, we were able to begin providing food to Hebburn Helps earlier this year and it’s great to hear what a difference it is making for their services.”
*Names have been changed
“Sometimes I have to go without to make sure there’s enough for Adam. But he has noticed that I’ve skipped meals and he knows I struggle. Now we come to the Grub Club, chat with other mums and kids and eat together – and that’s one less meal I have to worry about. They’ve helped us a lot.”