PLANS are underway to expand a Christian fellowship that helps vulnerable people.
The Elim denomination, which opened a Pentecostal Church in Whitby Street, Hartlepool, is now spreading its work to Peterlee.
Ministers are looking for a premises to open up a similar scheme in east Durham and want to replicate the success of Hartlepool’s church, which provides a range of services, including providing cheap meals to disadvantaged people and street pastor patrols which help revellers in the Church Street area.
The Peterlee-based venture has already launched a food bank, which supplies free food to struggling families and individuals.
The street pastor service will reach out to vulnerable people during the day-time in Peterlee, rather than at night, handing out food and advice.
Chiefs plan to get Peterlee Police on board with the scheme, just as Hartlepool Police have welcomed the pastor service’s support.
The church will also run a refuge, childcare facilities, provide places for the homeless and help for drug addicts.
Reverend Colin Sawtell, who has been instrumental in setting up the Hartlepool scheme, is working on the Peterlee project with Barry Wilson, a former minister.
There have already been church sessions held at Peterlee Leisure Centre, and the church is currently temporarily running from the Girl Guide’s hut at the rear of St Cuthbert’s Church, in Manor Way, Peterlee.
Sunday morning services are currently running from the hut, in which people can receive food bags, from 10.30am to 12.30pm, until a permanent home is found.
Rev Sawtell said people from Peterlee have been using the Hartlepool service and added: “When I first came to the North-East I was shocked by the poverty.
“It is going to take a bit of time to get a permanent base but I personally believe that God asked us to duplicate the church in Peterlee.”
He said church bosses are currently looking at somewhere to buy and make a permanent home.
Mr Wilson, who returned to his hometown Peterlee recently after 12 years working away, said he shared Rev Sawtell’s vision.
He added: “I want to use my life skills and make a difference in Peterlee. We recognise the needs of individuals, so for us Church does not end on a Sunday.
“There are practical needs everyday, be it food or other issues such as alcohol or drug dependency, or homelessness. We are determined to make a difference.”
For more information about the church, call Rev Sawtell on 07828 093728 or Mr Wilson on 07904 602864.