Great Aycliffe Community Aid Partnership helping local families and residents in need

Syd Howarth, Editor of Newton Aycliffe’s community newspaper, saw the need to form an organisation in Great Aycliffe, the aim was bringing together all parties involved or interested in supporting families/people in need in the area, regardless of circumstances, colour, creed or faith.

There was a number of organisations operating in the area providing services to families in need. There were various churches and other community groups helping people they come in contact with in difficult circumstances.

It was Syd’s initial vision that a partnership of all these different organisation could be formed and in the process the new organisation would raise awareness of the problems faced by those less fortunate in our community and also bring our community together to support those in need. The ideal situation would be for all the partners of the new organisation to be able to provide or know who could provide, for all the needs of a family in crisis, i.e. food, clothing, furniture, bedding, white and household goods. There would also be a need for a building big enough to meet all the needs that there are in the locality.


A Steering Group was elected and met on a regular basis.  The partnership was formed in December 2013. During the formation, organisations started to work together proving how effective the partnership could be. GACAP eventually found a permanent meeting place through the courtesy of DISC in Sapphire House, by the Blue Bridge in Newton Aycliffe. Disc were one of the founder partners in GACAP.


From inception, GACAP has received several donations from generous donors to help meet the need of the community. The partners agreed that a Discretionary Fund be set up to help partners who were looking either for a small amount of money to purchase a single item, or to cover part of a larger bid as matched funding. Several partners have benefitted from the fund as have more than one individual. This fund is currently controlled by the officers on a majority basis.


At the 2017 AGM a change in officers saw a new chairman and vice chairman with their own vision for the growth of GACAP. Chairman Ron Mitchie, Vice Chairman Geoff Batchelor, Treasurer Liane Taylor, Secretary Joan Mitchie and Assistant Secretary Peter Driver were elected.

During 2017 the partnership agreed to the formation of a Management Committee which included all officers and a number of partners. It was felt this would help with the division of responsibility and assist the transparency promised by the Officers.

A Constitution was adopted as our governance in place of a Memorandum of Understanding which the partnership felt was more likely to assist with our plan to be a Charity within the Charity Commission.

Syd was elected Life Time President as well as Founder. Ron revived Syd’s original vision of a Welfare Hub, but a building was and still is needed, it would be hopefully in the heart of the community, or with easy public transport access.

The building would house ground floor facilities for the various foodbanks, a laundry to ensure clothing received was clean and fresh, further, there would be space for household furniture, bedding, white goods and small household goods. Beyond that though, perhaps in the first floor it would also incorporate a one stop shop for advice, a place to support those families in need under one roof, with GACAP acting as the umbrella over the groups.

When people come for food or other goods. GACAP could help provide a long term solution and not just a band aid solution.  When people visit or are referred to a foodbank which is vital in the short term GACAP could work with other partners to look at the real issues such as debt advice, including budgeting, job clubs, relieving isolation and so many other issues that come with people in need.


Furthermore, we would hope for a place big enough to develop a Community Hub for local people to meet, to exercise, to socialise and to learn. A Community Welfare Hub would have a small number of meeting rooms to ensure there would be some income to off-set the cost of running the building. It is proposed that a funding bid, perhaps through the National Lottery Community Fund to build or refurbish the Community Hub and running costs would be met from income from room lettings and smaller funding bids or donations. The Community Hub would be manned by Volunteers in which the partnership has several partners with experience in this department.

Working as a team not only the Officers and Management Committee, but all partners who do such a tremendous job within their own organisations could have their own meetings plus places to meet the needs of those who call upon the benefits our partners have to offer.


The biggest move of late 2017 was the development of “Friends of GACAP” and “Associates of GACAP”. The first “Friends of GACAP” was Erme the Turkish Barber, with Town Councillor Paul Symons as friend number two. The purpose of “Friends and Associates” is to increase the capacity of GACAP giving those who do not provide a direct service to those in need but have a heart to help and support these people. “Associates of GACAP” will include businesses and organisations with a heart for the community. This is why we are reaching out to the business park believing that there are many companies who could get alongside us at GACAP offering support for us taking GACAP to the next level.

As 2017 draws to its close, it is amazing at what the partners have done. GACAP partners have gelled together holding both fundraising/awareness events in the Thames Centre and at Tesco. The Thames Centre events have been run for individual partners. We as GACAP held an event courtesy of our partner TESCO, our thanks go to all those that volunteered to man the fort. Most of all though our thanks go to the generous people of Newton Aycliffe some giving out of their poverty.

We have recently launched our website which is very much under construction. We have achieved this will the help of CDFHS and their staff.


Ron uses a saying that he often quotes, “I remember, the words of Harry S Truman who said “Much can be achieved by a group of people as long as no one person wants to take the credit”.

So let us all pledge to make Syd’s Vision come true in 2018”.