Play Café popped up at Beamish Museum, keeping a promise made before the Coronavirus lockdown affected us all. A donation at Christmas from 3M employees’ Sports & Social Club inspired our Trustees to provide annual passes to the Open Air Museum. When it reopened we went on Friday 21st August. This was the first of several visits we hope to make over the coming year.

Huge thanks to employees at 3M for the donation, as well as their efforts as Key Workers. Thanks to Nev Jones for arranging a luxury coach to take us – Covid securely of course. Grateful thanks to Walkers Butchers & Bakers, for providing delicious food that day and keeping us supplied for our summer holiday activities. Tesco Newton Aycliffe donated fresh fruit for our picnic. The store’s Community Champion, Shirley, has helped throughout the many weeks of the long school closure.

As most community venues were closed, Play Café is hugely indebted to the committee and staff of The Big Club who have allowed us to distribute the support packages since March. Families have so enjoyed the themed weeks, from Dinosaurs and Pirates to Sea Creatures. Health and Wellbeing materials supported anxious families through a very troubling time this year. When schools closed, Play Café supplied Home Schooling Packs for families needing resources, with only food shops open.

March/April was a scary time for people with limited incomes. “No toilet rolls” – but no pasta, baked beans and soup was very worrying for those never able to stockpile food. The shelves emptied for people who live on those foods every week! Play Café distributed basic groceries from the Durham Christian Partnership’s Food Bank.

So grateful to Kelly Smith’s teams at the County Food Bank Store.

Thanks to GAMP who administered funding support throughout the Crisis. Play Café trustees have funding for the Supporting Families Covid-19 project, and continues to give support for those adversely affected by the pandemic. Children were badly affected without supportive school routines. Families left without any income, not furloughed and without any benefits for weeks. Referrals from Key Workers have allowed our ‘super’ volunteers to give some immediate support. They worked every week through the worst of lockdown, taking care and giving generously.

Rotary Newton Aycliffe has encouraged and supported all Play Café projects. We have new volunteers as we go forward. Paul Howell, MP, came along for many weeks early in lockdown. Play Café’s start up grant was from all seven of our County Councillors via GAMP, and without all those community focused people, we could not have helped anyone.

Family Key Workers and schools’ Parent / Pupil support staff can contact Play Café to refer by text 07565 134194, or email: