A debt help centre in the Tees Valley is marking a decade of helping some of the poorest people in the area escape financial meltdown.
Tees Valley Community Church launched the centre in partnership with charity Christians Against Poverty in 2006 - well before the credit crunch that caused such widespread problems.
Centre manager Julie Parker and her team of support workers have been giving a unique, free, face-to-face service in the community, backed up by financial experts at CAP’s head office.
Last week, Julie carried out her 500th visit. It was to a single mum in need, accomplishing a decade of service that has seen homes saved from repossession, marriages saved from breakdown and lives saved from suicide.
'When I started I was given this Tees Valley area and I had this big map. It was daunting. I thought ‘How can we do this?’ Now, I don’t look at the enormity of it. I’d like to change the world and see the Tees Valley completely debt free but I take it one day at a time, one person at a time. Everyone’s story is different - that’s the exciting thing, and we help in any way we can.
'The church’s support has been amazing, they really care, and I know when I go to someone I am going to deliver a top quality service and you’re leaving people in safe hands.
The church marked the 10th anniversary last weekend with a special themed service and the founder of the charity, John Kirkby, speaking to the congregation.
“We have so much to celebrate. In a recent survey, more than a third of clients said they were seriously considering suicide before they were helped. That’s terribly sad but knowing we have helped so many of those and saved lives during the past ten years is wonderful.
'There are so many stories. One that stands out is this: I was asked to do a little talk, a chat about CAP, and what I didn’t know was, there was a lady in the crowd there planning her own suicide. She was facing eviction within days and hadn’t told her partner or anyone at all. I showed this film and she broke down and we were able to find out what was happening. We helped explain to her partner, went to court with her, quashed the eviction order, they kept their home and became regular members of our church and are now helping others.'
Huge congratulations from all of us at CAP to Julie and the team!