County Durham: Big funding boost for transforming community project
St John’s Church’s Shildon Alive Project has been awarded a further £378,341 from the Big Lottery for the transformation of the community of Shildon in County Durham bringing the total raised to £3/4 Million in just five years.
Shildon Alive was launched in 2012 by Revd Canon David Tomlinson, priest in charge of St John’s Church in the town, with the help of the Big Lottery and plenty of local enthusiasm. Sheldon is a post-industrial community that has experienced steady economic decline since the mid-1980s.
The Revd Canon David Tomlinson said: “Shildon is the kind of place that has a great sense of community but few opportunities. Shildon Alive was launched after a listening process that engaged with the town at multiple levels and saw the opening of the first two community gardens in 2011 and a Foodbank in 2013.”
Growth and awards both local and national followed as the outstanding nature of the work undertaken began to be recognised.
Yesterday (December 3) the Big Lottery announced that it will continue to fund the project with an additional grant of £378,341.00 spread over a four-year period. This grant will not only ensure Shildon Alive continues to support the vulnerable, build community, and challenge injustice but will also allow the project to expand in new ways.
With a centre of food and finance solidarity to be opened early in 2019, Shildon Alive will be building on the experience of the last five years by continuing to enable local people to care for local people.
Canon David added: “Since our lauch we have drawn down around 3/4 (three-quarters) of a million pounds in grant funding to enable people in our town to volunteer, support each other and grow in skills and understanding. We have seen almost every school child in the town engaged with growing food, we have taken the lead in challenging loan sharks, loneliness and food waste. We have encouraged a culture of sharing, for example, running a ‘coats for all’ campaign, sharing good stories, teaching skills such as cookery.
“We might be in the bottom 5% economically but when it comes to looking out for each other we are in a different league altogether! The new food solidarity centre will enable us to continue the mission that Jesus began, one in which no person need go hungry, or cold, or be a prisoner to loneliness or addiction.”
In August this year Shildon Alive gave away its largest number of meals in one month with 1084 meals given to families struggling over the summer. Almost 10% of the town's population used the Foodbank last year with many more using the food waste donated from supermarkets to supplement low wages or benefits.
Shildon Alive Project Coordinator, Paula Nelson said: “The latest grant is fantastic news as the work we have started is now secured for at least another four years.
“Through this grant we will see more people contributing to the community, moving from food poverty, and engaging in healthy lifestyle choices. Enabling financial resilience, through sharing practices around confident planning and good choices, will be taught from primary schools right through into adulthood while supporting people to abandon destructive habits is key.”
Asked about his motivation Canon David said: “Jesus loved people because he loved people, Christianity is not about ‘pie in the sky when we die’ it is about abundant life that starts now. If as a Christian the light I shine is not changing the world around me I would have to ask myself, ‘am I really loving like Jesus?’, for he is the one I follow.”
The Big Lottery in making the award said [we are] ‘delighted’ in being able to continue to fund what is happening in Shildon.
Photos: Keith Blundy