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Monday 24 December 2018, 9:26 AM
  • The Midcounties Co-operative has picked the Aston Project to be its Cheltenham Regional Charity Partner for 2019-2020
  • The partnership will run for two years, from January 1 2019 to 31 December 2020.
  • Around 1,800 employees across Gloucestershire’s Midcounties Co-operative branches will raise money for the charity partner
  • Includes funeral, travel and healthcare branches
  • Employees will also be contributing a minimum of four hours each to spend time volunteering with the charity – that’s 7,200 hours (300 days)

Since it launched in 2011, one of the goals of the Aston Project which supports vulnerable young people, has been to have a minibus. Now, that goal is closer than ever before thanks to a new partnership for 2019.

The Midcounties Co-operative has selected the Aston Project as its Cheltenham Regional Charity Partner for 2019-2020.

With over 30 branches in the Cheltenham regional area, from Co-operative convenience stores to Funeral care to Travel shops, it means around 1,800 employees will spend the next two years raising money for the charity.

A young man, older man and two women stand around a pull up banner on a sunny day

Copyright Allan Rhodes for The Midcounties Cooperative

Police Sergeant Nicola Nolan, an Aston Project Supervisor, said, “The entire Aston Project team are delighted to be nominated as The Midcounties Co-operative Charity Partner for 2019.

“The Midcounties Co-operative mission is very similar to that of the Aston Project in that we both strive to enhance the lives of our communities.

“The Aston Project team, our amazing volunteers and valued stakeholders are very grateful and clearly excited by this wonderful opportunity to build upon this further in the forthcoming year. It will allow our young people to engage and be inspired in their own local communities.

“Our sincere thanks to all the Co-operative members who voted and we very much look forward to working alongside them”.

a young man stands with his back to camera as a football comes towards him and children and adults play and talk in the background

The Aston Project was set up by Gloucestershire Constabulary in memory of PC Lynn Aston, a neighbourhood officer in Cheltenham who became a pillar of the community and championed young people to becoming positive, productive members of their local area.

Young people who are deemed at risk or vulnerable are able to give up their time to take part in activities that benefit others and the community. In return they get a number of credits, depending on the activity type and how long they spent doing it.

A man in black tshirt and stone-colour shorts lifts a wheelbarrow full of bark chips while facing a teenage boy in tshirt and shorts who lifts an empty wheelbarrow

Once they’ve built up enough credits, the young people can ‘spend’ them on a recreational activity, including go-karting, paintball, bowling, cinema trips and more.

The Aston Project relies on volunteers, partnerships and grants, and that has meant a minibus has been out of reach. The next two years could change that.

a blonde teenage boy pushes a wheelbarrow full of bark chips

Matt Windridge, a Leadership Team Ambassador at The Midcounties Co-operative in Cheltenham & Gloucester, said, “Supporting young people is a key focus for us at The Midcounties Co-operative which is why our colleagues and members voted to support the Aston Project as part of our charity partnership scheme.

“The organisation has a huge impact within the community by identifying young people in need and helping them to turn their lives around. Over the next two years, we will enable the project to reach more young people across the region and raise awareness for their cause with fundraising activity.”

a young girl in a green top and floral cap meets an animatronic dinosaur while adults take photos

Copyright Allan Rhodes for The Midcounties Cooperative

In previous years, employees of The Midcounties Co-operative have fundraised by holding cake sales, doing sponsored walks and taking part in Cheltenham Half Marathon.

The company also puts on larger-scale events like their Fun Day at Newlands Park in Cheltenham, which in 2017 raised £25,000 for their charity partners, and was attended by over 12,000 people.

Not only that, but each Cheltenham-regional employee will be allowed a minimum of four hours towards volunteer activities for the charity, which will mean at least 7,200 hours over the two years – that’s 300 days!

four women stand with three donkeys, two of which are carrying children

Copyright Allan Rhodes for The Midcounties Cooperative

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl, who has awarded grants to the Aston Project through his Commissioner’s Fund, said, “The Aston Project is one of the county’s programmes that really leads the way on Young People Becoming Adults – one of my police and crime plan priorities.

“It’s fantastic to see a business like The Midcounties Co-operative recognising the value of the incredible work of the Aston Project.

“Being selected charity partner will enable them to help even more young people in our county develop in to upstanding members of our communities.”

Adults and children stand in a park on a sunny day eating BBQ food, chatting and playing games

Eamonn Aston, widower of PC Lynne Aston and a charity stakeholder, said “It is an honour that The Midcounties Co-operative have nominated the Aston Project as a Charity Partner for 2019 and those within who voted in our favour I would wish to thank.

“The Midcounties Co-operative is renowned for their encouragement and enterprise in developing the potential of young people within local communities, something the Aston Project has in its foundation.

"With the support of The Midcounties Co-operative the Aston Project will continue to flourish and build upon the firm foundation it has within Gloucestershire Constabulary.

"The two enterprises working together will ensure the promotion of their similar objectives, which is to inspire young people and give them the true sense of community spirit which they can share and promote with their own peer group”.

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