BUSINESSES in a North-East town have joined forces to support a volunteering programme.

In a first for Darlington, the town’s leading employers have joined a 'Darlington Cares' scheme in which businesses will work with charities and community groups to build a volunteering framework to address the community’s needs, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

Professor Cliff Hardcastle, chairman of Darlington Cares and deputy vice chancellor for Teesside University, said: “The formation of this new initiative clearly demonstrates the value local businesses place on being active in their local community.

“By combining the volunteering resources and skills of members we can match these to the community projects where they will have the highest impact.”

The board of Darlington Cares includes vice chairs, Alasdair MacConachie of Sherwoods Ltd and Anne Yare of DeepOcean Group, along with representation from the Student Loans Company, Cummins, Marchday and Darlington Borough Council.

Teesside University’s Darlington campus is hosting the initiative, where programme manager, Katie Blundell, is working on a programme of activities including a Secret Santa scheme for the borough’s children in care.

Ms Blundell said: “We will be rolling out a full programme of activity for 2013, consisting of annual schemes and team challenges.

“Not only will these activities make a real difference to the local community, but they also offer positive benefits for employers and their employees through skills development and team building opportunities.”

Businesses interested in joining Darlington Cares or any groups who would like to suggest projects can contact Ms Blundell on 01642-738970.