SSAFA Durham helps beat local loneliness…with cake

Loneliness and isolation affect people across all ages and all backgrounds, but there is something especially moving about veterans – men and women who have done so much for their country – now too old, frail, or anxious to go out.

Picture: Keith Taylor

The pandemic and lockdown did little to help them, but the South West Durham Division of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has really stepped up to the plate to help these veterans with a simple befriending scheme that brought some company – and a bacon roll from Bishop Auckland FC and a cake from local baker Longstaff’s – right to their home.

Mike Donne, Branch President SSAFA Durham, explained how the scheme works, saying that a group of helpers assisted him and Ruth Wright, Divisional Treasurer of SSAFA South West Durham, by visiting up to 80 people who were isolated, lonely, and in need of befriending. Some 20 or so are still being visited

Mike said:

We carry out these visits fortnightly, taking with us bacon rolls and some cakes provided by local businesses, and funded by grants through SSAFA from the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media, and Sport] initiative, Bishop Auckland College, Joy Allen the-then Mayor of Bishop Auckland, our AAP [Area Action Partnership], and the veterans’ group that started after lockdown restrictions were eased.”

Cakes, rolls, and other bakery items were, said Mike, always bought from Longstaff’s, adding:

Longstaff’s has a good name locally, and all the food was yummy, ready for collection when it needed to be, and always served with a smile.

Mike said that it is “only right” that SSAFA Durham should acknowledge and thank the businesses that support the South West Durham Division’s Social Isolation Initiative, and more widely, the veteran community.

Businesses do so much for us,” commented Mike, “not just with their support for our veterans and their families, but also in how they help raise the profile of SSAFA so that we can give back to those who have given for their country, and give back in a way that shows compassion and maintains veterans’’ dignity.

“So this is why we presented Emma and her staff at Longstaff’s with a certificate of thanks and appreciation, because the part they have played in supporting the veteran community here, and keeping their spirits up during trying times can’t be overstated.”

Emma Longstaff, owner and manager of the family-run business, thanked the SSAFA branch, saying:

While we are doing our daily business, Ruth and Mike made us aware of the great work SSAFA Durham does, and we are delighted in some small way to be part of the project. Thank you so much for this recognition and certificate, which will be of great interest to our many customers.

If you run a business in or around Durham and would like to support your local SSAFA branch, then visit

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