The Elderberries programme at The Alnwick Garden usually provide a support network in the form of a drop-in centre and various programmes designed specifically with companionship and activities in mind.
Covid-restrictions have meant that not only has the service been affected, but so too have those who most need it.
In normal circumstances, the year would end with The Duchess of Northumberland’s Christmas party - a free three course feast including live entertainment for new beneficiaries from who may not get a chance to celebrate.
This year, as it became apparent that due to coronavirus there couldn’t be support for the community, it was time to think outside of the box.
Lynsey Walker, Elderberries project manager, explained: “We knew we wanted to reach out to isolated people in a different way, so we decided to make 150 hampers that would be delivered to the doorsteps of isolated people over 55 in Northumberland.
"With the support of funding from our CEO Mark Brassell’s CEO Sleepout and Her Grace, The Duchess of Northumberland, we were able to move the initiative forward and make it truly special.
“We used our community network to contact social care, social prescribing professionals, GP surgeries, mutual aid groups and other third sector organisations to refer people to us who they knew would benefit from receiving the hampers.”
Thanks to many suppliers, the hampers were filled with many amazing local products which were then packed by volunteers.
Tracey Graham, Elderberries project support officer, said: “It’s important to mention the true heroes of this initiative – the small businesses of Northumberland who kindly donated to us, our amazing volunteers who hand-crafted Christmas decorations to be included in the hampers, Swansfield Park Primary school who made the Christmas cards and local performers who kindly gave their time to make performance recordings for a short film.”
The Alnwick Garden would like to give a special thanks to Alnwick Gin, A Taste of Northumbria, Blackshaws, Di Sopra Restaurant, Northumberland Pantry, Northumberland Tea, The Chocolate Box, The Farm Cakery, The Mad Jam Woman, and local performers Lewis Denny, Glen Hogg, Gary Brown, Yvonne Slater and Andy Griffin.
The film can be viewed at https://www.alnwickgarden.com/elderberries-christmas/