A CHURCH is on a mission to ensure hundreds of families in need wake up to presents and good food on Christmas Day.

Crook Salvation Army has seen demand for its annual Christmas Present Appeal soar in recent years, and, this year, the charity expects to put together more than 300 festive hampers for people in the area. It is calling on the community to support its efforts by adding an extra toy and food item to their Christmas shopping list.

New or unused, unwrapped toys for children aged up to 18 can be dropped off at the church, in Queen Street, Crook, until December 22, along with food items and toiletries. Volunteers will then put hampers together, which will be passed on to organisations to distribute to families identified by social services, local groups and the Salvation Army’s own networks.

Crook Salvation Army collects throughout the year, working in partnership with Durham Food Bank to provide emergency food parcels. Demand is always greater on the run up to Christmas.

Church leader Captain Penny Palmer-Taylor, thanked everyone who had supported the appeal, adding: “During the festive season, when many are enjoying celebrations with friends and family, others are struggling to make ends meet. The Christmas story inspires us as a church to reach out to those in need, so we’re running the Christmas Present Appeal to ensure every child gets a present.”

Adam Baker, the corps’ community assistant, said: “Last year we delivered gifts and food to 300 people in need. It’s wonderful to see children’s faces light up when they open their Christmas presents. If you have children, grandchildren or children you support, think of what they might like in their Christmas stocking and consider buying an extra present and donating it.”

Gifts can include anything from soft and educational toys for the very youngest child to games, toys and accessories for older children.

Food items can include dried or canned food including meats, vegetables, desserts cereals, dried milk, small jars of coffee and teabags. Toiletries such as feminine hygiene products, nappies, deodorants, shower gels, soap, shampoo and toilet rolls are also welcomed.

Crook Councillors Anne Reed and Patricia Jopling have already donated toys and toiletries to the appeal.

For more information, contact 01388-762655.