DARLINGTON Building Society’s commitment to supporting good causes has been praised by a loyal customer who helps run a charity caring for children suffering from the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Mum-of-two Alison Shepherd, who has been a member of the Society since taking out her first mortgage, is co-ordinator of the Northallerton branch of Friends of Chernobyl’s Children.

The charity organises and funds annual trips to the UK by children living in poverty-stricken areas of Belarus still contaminated by the catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl power station, in the Soviet Union, in 1986.

And Alison has described her local branch of Darlington Building Society, in Northallerton High Street, as “an invaluable friend of the vital charity”.

Almost every year since the charity was formed in 1998, an average of 15 children – aged around seven or eight – have been brought to North Yorkshire for a four-week programme of fun and educational activities.

While staying with host families, they are checked by a doctor, dentist, and optician, as well as being given vitamins and minerals aimed at strengthening their damaged immune systems.

Sadly, this year’s trip had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the charity is already planning next year’s visit, and Alison is grateful for Darlington Building Society’s ongoing support.

“Darlington Building Society is such a great supporter of the community – not just our charity but so many other local charities, organisations, and businesses,” she says.

In particular, she is grateful for having regular access to the “Community Corner” in the Northallerton branch – a free space in the front window, which is dedicated to advertising community events.

One example is when a juke box – borrowed from the neighbouring Betterdaze music shop – was placed in the window to promote a 1970s/80s music event to raise funds for the charity.

“It really caught the eye and made lots of people stop to check what was happening,” says Alison, who lives at Brompton.

The Society has also supported the charity by organising fund-raising events of its own, such as a recent competition to win a giant teddy bear.

“What I love about Darlington Building Society is that the staff are so helpful. They are always asking how they can help, and nothing is ever too much trouble,” says Alison, who is also making the most of her personal savings thanks to a special offer on the Special Occasion Saver (SOS) account.

Alison had already taken out two of the accounts, which has an interest rate of 1.25% – one of the highest available. Normally, up to £250 a month can be saved with the SOS account but – thanks to the special offer – new or existing members have the chance to increase that to £750 a month for a limited period.

As soon, as she heard about the special offer, she immediately took advantage of the opportunity to maximise the monthly deposits on her two accounts.

Members can actually take out three SOS accounts, making the special offer especially attractive for as long as it lasts.

Richard Bell, supervisor at the Northallerton branch, said: “Mrs Shepherd is such a good customer and it’s been great to help her not only make the most of her personal savings, but to support her charity work.

“We are proud to be able to promote the priceless work carried out by The Friends of Chernobyl’s Children, as well as helping other local charities wherever we can. We are part of the local community and we want to make a difference.”