A group of staff from a Durham County Council Leisure Centre have been helping run a county food bank, while their permanent workplace is closed due to the COVID-19 response.

And one of the four is now taking to her car to deliver food and other supplies to people in isolation as part of the new council-led County Durham Together support network.

Their facility closed along with all other council leisure centres, libraries and cultural venues earlier this month as the authority acted in response to government guidance aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

Following the closure, Anna Bulmer, Rhiannon Foulds, Alex Sykes and Harvey Race spent last week helping run the food bank.

The site is run by the Durham Christian Partnership, part of the national Trussell Trust.

The quartet have been helping sort through incoming donations of food and preparing food packs for delivery to people in need. All while wearing gloves, keeping two metres apart and following hygiene guidance.

Anna, who has been a lifeguard and swimming teacher at the centre for six years, said: “Although it was very different to what we were all used to doing at the centre we all adapted very quickly. Especially at this point, with how the world is at the minute, it is important to keep busy and kind of help and do what you can. I would rather be out doing something to help than being sat on my own.

“Preparing food packs was nice because it felt like you were having an impact. As well as basic food you could also put something nice in a pack for a family that was struggling – maybe some treats that would make them feel a bit better.”

Anna has finished at the food bank for the time being and is instead going to be taking to the road to deliver food and other supplies to those who have been told to isolate for 12 weeks for health reasons.

This is through County Durham Together, set up by the council to provide people with support, either through established networks of community or volunteer groups, or from the authority itself through staff volunteers.

Nigel Dodds, the council’s strategic leisure manager, said: “Closing our leisure centres, libraries and cultural venues was a difficult but very necessary decision as people’s health and protecting the NHS are of the utmost importance.

“Our staff have been very understanding and it is brilliant that while their regular places of work are closed they can do their bit to help by working in food banks or delivering essential supplies to those in real need.”

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