Jamie Oliver honours kind-hearted quartet who combat poverty in the North East

Val Barron, Linda Gregory, Edie Hollifield, Beryl O'Hara and Enid Grey with the plaque received from communities they have supported. Picture by Keith Blundy.
Val Barron, Linda Gregory, Edie Hollifield, Beryl O'Hara and Enid Grey with the plaque received from communities they have supported. Picture by Keith Blundy.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has honoured a kind-hearted quartet who have been ensuring children do not go without food.

Edie Hollifield, 69, Enid Grey, 73, Beryl O’Hara, 69, and Linda Gregory, 65, were in London yesterday as a guest of Jamie at his CEO Cook-Off.

Jamie Oliver. Picture by PA.

Jamie Oliver. Picture by PA.

The women, all from churches in the Billingham area, were recognised for their work to combat poverty in the North East.

The work they do helps to support and feed almost 1,500 children during the school holidays.

They went to London with Churches Together Durham project co-ordinator Val Barron, who got in touch with Jamie’s team to highlight their work.

She said: “I thought Billingham Church Ladies’ work seemed to resonate with the aim’s of the CEO Cook-off really well, and I am so excited that the event in London recognised the work that volunteers engaged in this kind of work here in the North East.”

It’s absolutely marvellous to be recognised by Jamie – we are on cloud nine really

Edie Hollifield

The Billingham Church Holiday Club was formed two years ago on the back of the weekly Pray and Praise parent and toddler club at St Aidan’s Church.

It provides a place for families with young children to meet, play and get a hot meal.

Enid got involved after learning about the issues of ‘holiday hunger’ experienced by many children when they cannot access a free school meal, and set about improving the situation in Billingham.

He said: “We only had 10 days until the summer holiday started, so we rallied around, organised a venue, set up menus and we we were off running.

Beryl O'Hara, Val Barron, Enid Grey, Revd Bill Braviner,  Linda Gregory and Edie Hollifield outside St Aidan's Church Billingham. Picture by Keith Blundy.

Beryl O'Hara, Val Barron, Enid Grey, Revd Bill Braviner, Linda Gregory and Edie Hollifield outside St Aidan's Church Billingham. Picture by Keith Blundy.

“The response was fantastic and we did more than 500 meals that first summer.”

In the second year, they added another holiday club in Port Clarence.

Edie said: “We got the community to work together with us – it was brilliant.

“The community told us that groups normally stay a few weeks then we never see them again...they said you have stayed, worked with us and we feel that we have been helped and supported by the church.

“One little lad came in whilst we were doing the food and all he wanted was a banana because he used to have them but his mum could no longer afford to get them for him!

“At the end of the summer we were presented with a glass plaque to thank us for helping them, that was such an honour.

“It’s absolutely marvellous to be recognised by Jamie – we are on cloud nine really – as we just get on with things never asking for anything in return.”