As Chairman of GACAP from April 2017, I well remember the Founder of GACAP, Syd Howarth M.B.E. coming to see me while I was Secretary of the Agnew Community Centre to discuss his Vision for the organisation to have the ability to house the various foodbanks, clothing bundles, household furniture, bedding, white goods and household small goods in Great Aycliffe and to develop a wider Community Hub to cover those families in need under one building and GACAP to act as the umbrella group to make this happen.
After several public meetings and steering group meetings we were formally brought to fruition as the Great Aycliffe Community Aid Partnership on December 9th and the Officers elected were Pauline Chambers Chairman: Steven Mitton Vice Chairman: Joan Clark (Mitchie): Liane Taylor (Robinson) Treasurer working within the remit of a Memorandum of Understanding as a governance. In the early days the partner meetings were held at various partner venues until having the Agnew Community Centre as our base until the numbers were too great for the meetings at Agnew so we moved to DISC for our meetings.
GACAP drew up a business plan with the view of a funding application and worked with County Councillors with respect of plans for the new building at Agnew which would incorporate a Children’s Nursery, Food and Clothing storage with meeting rooms for both the partners and to hire.
After the siting of a building within the grounds of Agnew did not bear fruit we looked at many other possible sites to achieve our aims but this fell on Stoney ground despite work from various people including Syd Howarth and Steve Mitton.
In 2017 new Officers were elected, with Syd Howarth MBE elected as Life President and Ron Mitchie as Chairman, Geoff Batchelor as vice Chairman. Joan Mitchie (Clark) and Liane Taylor (Robinson) as Treasurer were returned unopposed. The position of Assistant Secretary was at that point left vacant.
At the AGM we accepted a Constitution, we also agreed to form a Management Committee incorporating Peter Drive partner for Harvest Church, Kath Pinner Partner for St Clares’ Foodbank and Places of Welcome, Val Fawcett, AARMS and Chris Palmer from St Mary’s Church. Our Management Committee has met regularly pushing forward on the website. To help us on this Peter Driver was elected to the unopposed position of Assistant Secretary with specific responsibility for push forward the website. Sally Symons was elected as Management Committee member in places of Peter Driver.
Another big move was the creation of “Friends of GACAP” and “Associates of GACAP”, this was developed after Joan and Ron Mitchie were asked by Geoff Batchelor Vice Chairman of GACAP and Welfare Officer of Rotary if they would like to become Friends of Rotary which of course was accepted. It was at that point that Friends of GACAP was born and since the Erme xxxxxx the Turkish Barber became the first “Friend of GACAP”

So where do we go from 2017 forward, my Vision is in the main the same as our Founders was in 2013. But to have a building to house all of those partners who do not have their own premises, to run from a one stop place incorporated within a Welfare Hub and perhaps even at Community Centre. When people come for food or other goods we can provide a long term solution and not just a band aid solution which while is vital for the short term we can look at the real issues such as debt, including budgeting and so many other issues that come with people in need.
We must work as a team not only the Officers and Management Committee but all partners who do such a tremendous job within their own organisations to meet the needs of those who call upon the benefits our partners have to offer. I remember, and often quote 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”.
As 2017 draws to its end I am amazed at what you the partners have done and to this end GACAP have gelled together both fundraising/awareness events in the Thames Centre and Tesco. The Thames Centre events have been run for individual partners. We as GACAP held an Event courtesy of our partner TESCO and on a Thursday in November we raised £221-50. Our thanks go to all that volunteered to man the shop. Most of all though our thanks go to the generous people of Newton Aycliffe some giving out of their poverty like the widow in the bible who gave only two small coins.
Let us pray that we find a suitable building or site to build on in 2018. Joan and I are looking at opportunities with other projects that we are involved with that can dovetail with the vision, but more of this next year.
So fellow Partners. Friends and Associates lets be positive in our search for a place to achieve Syd’s Vision, which is now shared by all GACAP partners and for the benefit of all of those residents of Great Aycliffe, especially the children who fall on hard times for on fault of thereown.
Joan and I have a passion for people and it was this that brought us together so we can succeed whatever the setbacks we receive at times.
As your Chairman I wish each of your success in all that you do and continue to work with each other as we have seen more and more involvement in 2017 between partners.
So let us all pledge to make Syd’s Vision come true.

Ron Mitchie