The excitement is building in the South West Durham Division of SSAFA Durham Branch, the Armed Forces charity as December 8 approaches and division volunteers – members of the Bishop Auckland Veterans’ Group – await the Northern Echo County Durham Together Awards finals.

The awards spotlight the incredible work carried out by those in the voluntary sector in County Durham, and in what are – after pandemics and lockdowns, and now a cost-of-living crisis – are challenging circumstances for many people.

SSAFA South West Durham Division’s finalists are headed by the branch’s President, Mike Donne, and his wife Ruth Wright, Divisional Treasurer of SSAFA South West Durham.

Their work, and that of other SSAFA volunteers over the years and specifically since March 2020 has provided what Mike terms a “… lifeline of hope and support…” to serving personnel, veterans, and their families in the area.

Mike said: “One of the most successful, but also one of the simplest things we’ve done is part of a scheme to alleviate, as much as possible, the isolation and social exclusion that some of our veteran community too old, frail, or anxious to go out experienced during lockdowns.

And when I say ‘simple’ it really was: Ruth, other helpers, and I made fortnightly visits to around 80 people taking with us bacon rolls and some cakes provided by local businesses.”

Mike added that it was “… impossible to overstate” the benefit this simple act brought to men and women cut off from their families.

The SSAFA Durham Branch President said that being nominated to the finals of County Durham Together Awards is reward in itself, adding: “Reaching the final really is testament to the, the lifeline of hope and support, the amazing work carried out by the team of volunteers we have in the Division, assisting our Armed Forces community when, where, and how they need it, just as SSAFA has done for nearly 140 years.”

The Northern Echo County Durham Together Awards 2022 finals will be held at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Carrville, Durham on Thursday, December 8.

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