TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the leading lights of a Darlington disability charity, who passed away last week after a long illness.

Jacki Hiles, who was 52, was assistant chief executive of Darlington Association on Disability (Dad).

She joined the organisation 22 years ago and played an active role in its success, as well as many other voluntary sector organisations in the town.

Dad said it is ‘extremely saddened’ at the loss of one of its senior staff members.

Mrs Hiles initially joined the charity as a play scheme co-ordinator and among her achievements has been the development of its children’s service as a key resource for disabled young people and their families.

She then took on the role of volunteer co-ordinator, responsible for recruiting, training and supporting hundreds of people over the years to support Dad activities across the town.

As one of the first carers support workers in the country in the early 1990s, Mrs Hiles ensured that carers’ issues were highlighted in the town and developed a pioneering scheme with colleagues at Whinfield Surgery to develop one of the first GP registers of carers, something that is now a national requirement of all GP practices.

Mrs Hiles leaves a husband, son and daughter.

Dad chief executive Lauren Robinson said: “As assistant chief executive, Jacki ensured that disabled people and carers in the town have had a voice in the issues that affect them and has worked constantly to ensure that barriers are broken down and people are treated equally and fairly.

“Jacki has helped to raise substantial funds for the organisation to undertake its work, making the organisation what it is today.

“Most importantly, everyone who knew or met Jacki was touched by her wonderful personality.

“Her devotion to Dad was exceptional, her wisdom and professionalism irreplaceable and her sense of humour was a tonic.

“Dad would be nowhere near the organisation it is now if Jacki hadn’t been at the forefront.

“She will be greatly missed by members, volunteers, staff, and trustees, however her work leaves a shining legacy in the organisation and in Darlington.”

Mrs Hiles’ funeral service will be held at Darlington Crematorium, in Carmel Road North, at 1.15pm on Friday (December 20).