• (L-R): Joanne Beddow (Barclays), Victoria Robinson (Penshaw Community Centre), Ann Donkin (Gentoo), Michelle Meldrum (Gentoo), Katherine Mason, (Penshaw Community Centre) and Karl Davies (Barclays).

Gentoo lend a helping hand to families in need

Our summer campaign ‘Helping Hands’ has helped donate more than 2,000 items of food and school uniforms to families in need across Sunderland.

We have worked in partnership with the Sunderland Connect Network, Barclays and local schools to lend a hand to local families during the school holidays. Working together, each organisation has collected unwanted school uniforms and spare food from staff, parents and the local community. In total, 1,341 items of school uniform and almost 1,000 items of food were donated.

Uniforms were collated from collection bins across seven local schools – Eppleton Primary, Southwick Primary, Hudson Road Primary, Barmston Village Primary, Biddick Academy, Hetton Secondary School, New Penshaw Academy and Willow Fields Community Primary School where parents donated uniforms that their children had grown out of. Gentoo and Barclays also received a number of donations from their staff and the local community.

On Friday 25 August, Gentoo volunteers dropped off the donations at one of their local beneficiaries, Penshaw Community Centre, where families could come along and pick up school uniforms they needed for their children. Uniforms were also forwarded to other local community hubs including Southwick Salvation Army, Easington Lane Community Access Point (ELCAP) and Washington Village Community Centre.

The aim was to relieve the added cost of new school uniforms which can place a burden on families, with some resorting to payday loans which can lead to further financial strain.

Katherine Mason, Secretary of Penshaw Community Centre said: “The number of school uniforms that have been donated is amazing. There are so many people in the local community that need a helping hand and by working with Gentoo we were able to hand out school uniforms to those in need. It is so nice to see businesses and local communities working together to make a difference to people’s lives. A huge thank you to Gentoo and everyone who donated.”

As there has been a surge in demand at food banks over the summer, Gentoo and Barclays staff have also donated food and money towards the campaign. Food donations were given to the Sunderland Connect Network who then distributed them to food banks across the city.

Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director (Gentoo), said: “Our Helping Hands campaign is an opportunity for us to make a difference in the local community. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our staff, corporate partners and the local community. As a housing association, we are aware of the financial difficulties that families are facing at this time and this campaign is one way we can help. A huge thank you to everyone who has donated and to Barclays and the Sunderland Connect Network who have supported us to make a difference to these families.”

For more information about Gentoo’s community initiatives visit