NEAS-Mackenzie-Thorpe-Centre-mum-Kelly-and-LottiePublished: 30 March 2022

Darlington Building Society has announced an “exciting” partnership with the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

A £15,000 donation from the Society’s 5% Pledge will help the pioneering charity to build an accessible outdoor play area.

The play area will be located at The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre in South Bank, Middlesbrough – a recently opened school for autistic children.

As well as the financial donation, the Society is exploring other ways to support NEAS. This includes volunteering, financial education, and training so that staff become more aware of autism and neurodiversity.

The partnership with NEAS is championed by Alison Etherington, a Darlington Building Society employee with a personal connection to autism.

Alison, member of the building society’s Community Impact Group, said: “The pandemic has made NEAS’ services more important than ever. We’re proud to be supporting an amazing charity that makes a huge difference to so many lives.

“The new play area at the centre will be for children who may not be able to access public play equipment owing to various barriers.

“We’re also exploring ways to use the skills we have amongst our staff. We want to provide additional support through volunteering with things like decorating, gardening, or painting fences. On top of that, there’s potential to use our expertise to help in areas such as budgeting and financial education.”

Long-term benefits

Niki Barker, the Society’s Director of People and Culture, added: “We’ve spent time getting to know NEAS better. It was important for us to support this wonderful charity with a sustainable project. It will provide long-term benefits for some of the region’s most vulnerable families.”

Kevin Meikle, Fundraising Manager for NEAS, said: “Darlington Building Society is a financial institution that is well known for being at the heart of the community. We’re thrilled to be entering into such an exciting partnership.

“The new play area will bring so much joy to children who attend The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre. Not just now, but in the future too. We look forward to developing a lasting relationship with the Society.”

World Autism Acceptance Week runs from March 28 until April 3.

To find out more about the North East Autism Society please visit

For more information about Darlington Building Society’s 5% Pledge, and wider community work, please visit our online community hub.