A VOLUNTEERING initiative has got off to a festive start in Darlington, with a collection of gifts for needy youngsters.

Members of Darlington Cares, a partnership of some of the town’s leading employers, this week collected more than 200 gifts for children in care, as well as hosting a party for elderly people in sheltered housing.

Generous staff at Cares’ member organisations including Darlington Borough Council, Cummins, Deep Ocean Group, Marchday, Sherwoods, the Student Loans Company and Teesside University, have been purchasing an extra gift when doing their Christmas shopping to support a Secret Santa appeal for children in care.

Professor Cliff Hardcastle, chairman of Darlington Cares and deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Business Engagement) of Teesside University, said: “The generosity of staff at our member companies have been overwhelming, we managed to collect a target of over 200 gifts in less than three weeks for the Secret Santa appeal for looked after children.

“It is particularly touching as we understand finances are tight, so for people to remember others at this time of the year proves Christmas spirit is alive and well.”

In addition to the Secret Santa appeal, a team of volunteers from Cares’ member company, Cummins, organised a Christmas party for residents of Rosemary Court, featuring sherry, mince pies musical entertainment and a buffet.

Darlington Cares was launched in October and is a partnership of the town’s leading businesses who are committed to making Darlington a better place through employee volunteering.

For more information, call Katie Blundell, on 01642-738970 or email k.blundell@tees.ac.uk