New Tees restaurant shares festive spirit with amazing grandparents

CEO Sleepout’s unique new restaurant, The Fork in the Road, delivered a taste of festive spirit when it served a free Christmas Day lunch to some of Teesside’s most marginalised families.

Just a day after its Christmas Eve launch, the charity-funded, not-for-profit eaterie opened its doors to spread some festive joy among its special guests.

Those in attendance among the 40-strong group were underprivileged Teesside children and the grandparents who care for them in the absence of their parents.

The Fork in the Road worked with charity Grandparents Plus to identify children and grandparents who would benefit most from the festive gesture.

The restaurant’s staff put their own Christmas Day celebrations on hold to work to prepare a sumptuous three-course lunch with all the trimmings.

And the festive feast was served by a team of big-hearted volunteers, who also broke away from their own Christmas festivities.

The volunteers included international athlete Matty Hynes and his wife Gemma plus CEO Sleepout trustee Nik Tunley and local business owners Alisdair Beveridge, Keith and Jayne Stephenson, Shazia Noor, Martin Walker, Joanne Cotton, Carla Keegans and Lisa Preston.

Even Santa took time out from his busy schedule to call in!

The restaurant is being run by Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout.

CEO Sleepout chairman Andy Preston, who also took time away from his family to welcome the special guests, said: “The magic of Christmas came to The Fork in the Road and I think we made a truly memorable occasion for all involved.

“Our goal is to be a fantastic venue that serves up fantastic food but, more importantly, is a force for good on Teesside.

“Serving up Christmas Day lunch for some of the most marginalised Teesside families, many of whom would not have otherwise enjoyed something the majority of us take for granted.

“Grandparents Plus is a fabulous charity working with grandparents and other kinship carers who look after young children when their parents are unable or unwilling to do so.

“From the many hundreds of families within their network, they identified those they felt would benefit most from Christmas Day lunch at our amazing new restaurant.

“But it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible spirit of Christmas generosity displayed by the restaurant’s staff and our wonderful volunteers who broke away from their own festivities to do something they should all be incredibly proud of.

“What they did is surely what Christmas is all about.”

Believed to be unique in North East, The Fork in the Road is being run by highly experienced catering professionals who mentor a number of trainees looking for a second chance in life, including ex-offenders, those in recovery from addiction and the long-term unemployed.

The Fork in the Road is based on Middlesbrough’s Linthorpe Road, in previously derelict premises once occupied by popular toy shop, Romer Parrish, opposite the town’s booming Baker Street and Bedford Street regeneration zone.

Two former offenders are among the restaurant’s first recruits, including a Redcar teenager whose job as a kitchen porter is his first ever employment after serving a year in prison.

Also now open above the restaurant is Bar Zero, a dry bar which Andy believes will play an important role in Teesside’s recovery scene, offering a great place to mix with friends and meet people, while also being made available to hire for private functions.

The planning of this project has been carefully managed by a group including Dot Turton from charity Recovery Connections alongside Jonathan Bowden and Rachel Burns of Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health Department.

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