Building society staff have invested time to help brighten up a County Durham creative business hub and art gallery.
The volunteers from both the Bishop Auckland and Tubwell Row branches of Darlington Building Society swapped paying in books and pens for paint and brushes, as they gave up a day to freshen up The Pod in the town’s Market Place to mark a milestone year.
Darlington Building Society is celebrating its 160th anniversary by pledging to use £160,000 from its community fund and 160 volunteer days to help 160 local organisations and causes, of which The Pod is one.
The Society’s Bishop Auckland branch has donated £100 from its community fund to buy decorating supplies to cook-up a new look for a tired and dated kitchen at The Pod, which is run by the charitable Auckland Castle Trust.
The exciting business initiative, which was launched in April last year, acts as an incubator space for Bishop Auckland-based creative and artisan ventures to grow and develop their commercial skills in a safe environment, as well as a gallery and exhibition area.
It is an integral part of the Auckland Castle Trust’s long-term ambition to revitalise the economy of this part of south west Durham on the back of the £60m development and conservation of the former home of England’s only Prince Bishops.
Darlington Building Society employees, Maria Postma and Beverley Toole both worked alongside Auckland Castle Trust’s head of volunteering, Michele Armstrong, to revamp The Pod’s kitchen, which is used by the business owners utilising the special pop-up spaces from which they can craft and sell their work.
Beverley Toole, a customer service consultant of the Bishop Auckland branch, was one of the team which volunteered to help with the decorating.
She said: “We decided to support The Pod after visiting Auckland Castle with our Chief Executive, Colin Fyfe. Whilst taking a tour of the castle we heard how the Auckland Castle Trust has taken over an empty shop in the Market Place and is using it to help new businesses get on their feet.
“We’re always looking for ways to have a positive impact on the community and we thought The Pod sounded an excellent idea. It is a fantastic way to help promote local businesses and artists, whilst also helping to grow the town’s economy by giving people a chance.
“One of the pledges we have made as part of the Society’s 160th anniversary is to use our time, community fund and resources to help local businesses, organisations and charities, whether that means spending a day painting as we did, purchasing equipment, or loaning our van to help move goods around.”
Michele Armstrong, Head of Volunteering at Auckland Castle, added: “This makeover came at no cost to us, which was wonderful, as the Auckland Castle Trust is a registered charity. Darlington Building Society’s generosity in terms of time and money has enabled us to create a much more pleasing kitchen environment for The Pod’s business users.
“The work has come at a good time for us as we look to assist more entrepreneurs of the future and give them the chance to grow their business idea.
“We want to prepare people for business so that when visitors are attracted to Bishop Auckland by the developments going on at the castle and further afield, they will find a thriving, confident town. Part of being able to do that is to ensure that those people already availing themselves of The Pod’s facilities and services have as nice an environment as possible to work in.”