Charity’s 40 years of helping cancer victims

LOOKING BACK: Harry Bennett, left, and Colin Austin.
LOOKING BACK: Harry Bennett, left, and Colin Austin.

CHARITY bosses have looked back on four decades of helping cancer victims.

Peterlee’s Macmillan Cancer Support Committee was set up in late 1974 by town councillor Harry Bennett.

The branch has set a goal of trying to make as much money as it can over the coming 12 months.

As well as planning a number of events, committee members are also looking into getting 500 commemorative badges made, which will be collector’s items.

Coun Bennett, who represents Peterlee East on Durham County Council, was the first mayor of Peterlee in 1974, after a change in local government which saw him replace Bill Whitehouse who was chief executive when the parish council of Peterlee became a town council.

Coun Bennett, 81, who became an MBE in 2004 due to his services to charity, said a Lieutenant Commander Forbes was in County Durham trying to form Macmillan committees and around half a dozen were formed, including Peterlee.

“I got help from the Peterlee Development Corporation and we had a donation of £500, which was a fortune in those days,” he added.

In the past four decades the Macmillan committee in Peterlee is expected to have raised more than £1.3m, including £585,000 between 2003 and 2012 and £14,000 in 2013.

The committee saw a dip in donations when the former District of Easington Council was abolished in 2009 to make way for a unitary authority, as many district chairmen had supported the charity over the years.

But the branch has still managed to flourish, with thousands of pounds still rolling in from the generous people of East Durham each year.

“It’s only by the generosity and kindness of the people of Easington district in six parishes in the main, including Peterlee, Horden and Shotton, that we can do this,” said Coun Bennett.

Colin Austin, a former Peterlee town councillor, and Macmillan committee member, said: “I can’t believe it’s been 40 years. I’m only an amateur – I got involved 33 years ago.”

The committee is always looking for new members, ring Coun Bennett on (0191) 5863263.