HELP is needed to bring festive cheer to women and children living at a refuge.

Staff at the Darlington branch of Specsavers have launched their annual charity appeal in a bid to make sure families fleeing domestic abuse can enjoy Christmas.

They hope to help the team at Family Help Darlington to provide food, clothes, gifts and toiletries to those who need their support this winter.

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The refuge, which recently marked its 40th anniversary, helps hundreds of people every year and is always operating at capacity.

Specsavers staff member Kerry Leonard urged members of the public to join them in supporting Family Help and the work that they do.

She said: “We choose to support the refuge because they don’t get enough recognition for the work that they do.

“We’re a local franchise and it’s important for us to look after local charities and good causes.

“The refuge do all sorts, they are always full and sometimes have to turn people away.

“They can get people showing up at the drop of a hat, even on Christmas morning, with nothing.

“It is absolutely awful to be in that situation with your family at Christmas, with no presents.

“The refuge has to pay for any food they give them and there’s always a desperate shortage of Christmas gifts and clothes, especially for teenage boys.”

Specsavers on High Row are now collecting donations of money, clothes and gifts that are brand new or in excellent condition.

The collection will run until Sunday, December 18.