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A grassroots County Durham charity is extending the support it can provide to dozens of people facing addiction issues with the help of a four-figure grant from Newcastle Building Society.

Free The Way has used a £3,000 Society grant to provide emergency food parcels to people and families facing challenges related to alcohol and substance misuse, as part of its wider efforts to tackle service users’ addictions.

The Seaham-based charity, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, specialises in providing structured weekly programmes of recovery from addictions, as well as offering supported housing in which their service users can live while they’re on their journey to recovery.

It also runs a weekly breakfast club and healthy eating courses, to help ensure the people it is supporting are getting the nutrition they need as they get their lives back on track.

The grant has been 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.

Free The Way was originally set up by a group of local parents and carers who wanted to improve the care and support available to people in East Durham facing problems with alcohol and substance misuse.

Its services are available to people from both within and outside the local area, with people travelling from as far away as Scotland to access the support it provides.

Run by a team of staff and volunteers, some of whom have been involved with the charity since its inception, Free The Way helps around 70 people every month, with peer support provided by a number of former addicts who can provide advice on how they’ve reach their goal of getting and staying clean.

Alison Goggins, support workers at Free The Way, says: “Our service users often come from chaotic or very challenging backgrounds, and can have almost nothing to their names when they first find their way to us.

“When you’re battling addictions, getting the right amount of food and nutrition simply isn’t a priority, which can add to the health problems that are often already in play.

“Addressing this issue, whether through these food parcels, our breakfast club sessions or our healthy eating classes, is a core part of helping people find a way past their problems and to get themselves healthier in every way possible.

“We wouldn’t have been able to make this happen without Newcastle Building Society’s support and we’re very grateful to have them on our side.”

Steven Marks, client services director at Newcastle Building Society subsidiary Newcastle Strategic Solutions, who recently visited Free The Way, adds: “Free The Way was founded on the basis of meeting a clear community need and is continuing to do so two decades on.

“Their commitment makes a hugely positive difference to the lives of individuals and families who might otherwise struggle to get the help they need and we’re very pleased to be able to contribute to the services they provide.”

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.

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