A CHARITY which helps people with learning disabilities has been overwhelmed with offers of support after it was raided by thieves.

Thieves broke into the premises of Advocacy in Darlington and stole four laptops which had been donated less than a week earlier.

But after The Northern Echo reported on the break-in, the organisation has been inundated with donations and offers of help from both residents and businesses in Darlington.

The group, which provides one-on-one advocacy support, socialising opportunities and activities for people with learning difficulties, is self-funded by project manager, Chris Close, and his wife, Barbara.

Mr Close said: “The burglary disrupted the lives of the people who use our organisation, it is a place of safety to them and to have it broken into really shook them.

“When it happened I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, there is no way I could replace four laptops.

“But we have had tremendous support from the people of Darlington, I can’t thank everyone enough.

“There has been a fantastic response to the article, it’s quite heart-warming. You can struggle as a small charity but the help we’ve had is amazing.”

The laptops were used by clients at the organisation’s premises, in Cleveland Trading Estate, in Darlington, to develop vital skills, make music and develop their hand-to-eye coordination.

Mr Close said: “Our clients are all over the moon with the donations, they are seeing how fantastic it is that people actually care about us.

“We have to thank the Northern Echo – without the coverage I’m sure we wouldn’t have had the same response.

“It has cheered up our volunteers and our service users. It’s not the value of the stuff we’ve been given, it’s that it makes you realise that we do is worthwhile.”

Detective Constable Phil Collingwood, who is investigating the incident, said: “We are delighted for them, and the community response is excellent; these are vulnerable people they have targeted.

“The donations have been great, it just shows there is still community spirit out there.”

Enquiries into the theft are ongoing, and anyone with any information on the theft is asked to call Det Con Collingwood on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.