A VITAL service that helps hundreds of families through the loss of a loved one has been saved from closure after securing a six-figure Lottery grant.
Back in January, bosses at Hartlepool Bereavement Service feared they had no future after a bid for Big Lottery funding was turned down.
But eight months later, staff and service users are breathing a huge sigh of relief after a second bid was secured, with £164,000 awarded from the Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund – enough to secure the service’s running costs for the next three years.
Manager Linda Parker said: “We are absolutely elated.
“The last eight months have been hard work.”
But Linda insisted that service bosses aren’t resting on their laurels, and will continue to source funding from different outlets to ensure a sustained service.
The Mail reported in January that the valued organisation faced closure and had just eight weeks to find at least £9,000 to keep going.
Linda had said funding cuts were a problem facing most of the voluntary sector.
The service, whose administrator is Michelle Hall, appealed for help from the community and even a “secret millionaire” to save it.
The facility, whose chairman and volunteer administrator is Edgar Coulson, had to cut back staffed hours to cope with two rejected Lottery funding bids.
Kind-hearted community members set about organising numerous fundraisers, with £5,000 raised over the coming months.
The service was also kept afloat with £15,000 from Hartlepool Borough Council and £8,000 from the local Primary Care Trust.
Grateful Linda said: “The contribution and support from all those people has enabled us to get through the year.”
She said the amazing six-figure grant means “we can get on with the job we are here for, which is to help bereaved people”.
Linda added: “The bereaved clients we have got at the moment and the social groups we have are relieved that we are here as an agency for ongoing support.
“To be able to continuing doing that is great.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their support.
“We very much work as a team, and I would also like to thank our management committee that have put in time and effort, as well as all our volunteers, and bereaved people themselves.”
Linda also thanked Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) for its support.
The service was set up in 2009 with £160,000 of lottery funding, and has helped around 700 families.
It offers a friendly listening ear through home visits and at its base in Park Road.
The service also provides practical support for everything from welfare benefits changes and funeral grants to wills and accommodation.