A grassroots football club has been able to provide free healthy activities for children and create a learning space for its community thanks to funding through an Area Action Partnership.

Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership (AAP) has been working closely with Shildon Association Football Club (AFC) for the last 12 months in securing invaluable funding to help with running costs and ongoing projects.

As part of Durham County Council’s coronavirus support fund, allocated to its 14 AAPs to award to local groups and organisations during the pandemic, £2,820 was given to Shildon AFC to help with running costs during the lockdown period.

Costs included utilities, insurance, essential repairs around the ground, pitch maintenance works, and waste disposal. The club’s chairman, David Dent, said the funding has been vital for the club during a very difficult period.

He said: “The support of the AAP both pre- and mid-covid has been unbelievable and we can’t thank them enough. It’s helped safeguard the club at a time when all of our income streams were turned off overnight. More importantly, it’s also allowed us to invest in our facilities and continue to provide much needed activities for young children in the town. I believe in building partnerships with people and the AAP are becoming a strategic partner of Shildon AFC.”

A grant of £900 was awarded to the club from the council’s Holiday Activities and Healthy Food Fund (HAWHF) which was used to run a summer football school for children. The sessions were held during the final week of the summer holidays and included free football coaching and team games along with a healthy breakfast and lunch.

The sessions were delivered by a coach from the Foundation of Light and a player from Shildon AFC at their stadium on Dean Street, where 13 children attended the sessions for the full week.

The AAP also helped Shildon AFC secure £2,000 of external match funding through the Scotto Trust late last year, enabling them to create an educational classroom space for children and young people. The project involved the refurbishment of a portacabin within the grounds and the purchase of a new fridge and smart screen TV.

This newly decorated space will be used on match days, as a meeting room for the club’s Board, and as a learning base for children and young people. Shildon AFC are also currently in discussion with a local secondary school to potentially use the space as a homework club.

Andrew Walker, coordinator of Bishop Auckland and Shildon AAP said: “Like many local sports clubs, Shildon AFC are at the heart of its community and I’m delighted that we have been able to work with and support them during this difficult time. The activities over the summer have been a big success and, with the addition of the learning space, the club is in a much better position to do even more work with the community.”

For more information about the support available from the county’s AAPs, visit www.durham.gov.uk/aaps