KIND-HEARTED Darlington residents have been helping to ensure a Christmas toy appeal gets off to the best possible start.

The town’s Salvation Army helps hundreds of less fortunate youngsters every year, with demand expected to be higher than ever this year.

Since the appeal was launched last month, gifts of brand-new toys and cash donations in lieu of presents have started to trickle in.

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Now, a town centre book shop has offered itself as a drop-off point for people wishing to contribute.

Donations can be left at Footprints book shop, in Skinnergate, between 9am and 5pm Monday to Saturday.

Captain Colin Bradshaw, commanding officer of Darlington Citadel, in Thomson Street East, said the appeal had made an encouraging start.

He said: “It is starting to pick up, which is nice to see and having a collection point in the town centre is fantastic.

“We have not had a dedicated town centre drop-off point for people’s donations before, so it really will make a difference.”

Cpt Bradshaw’s remit covers an area between Newton Aycliffe and Northallerton, but a vast majority of children referred to him by agencies such as social services – up to 95 per cent – are from Darlington.

He is keen to Darlington residents thinking of making a donation that their kindness will directly benefit needy youngsters in the town.

Book shop manager Sue Carpenter agreed to use her shop as a collection point for donations of toys after being impressed by Cpt Bradshaw when he gave a speech at an event at Eastbourne Academy 18 months ago.

Her daughter, 12-year-old Abby, a year eight pupil at Hurworth Academy, raised money for the appeal last year by selling cakes to neighbours and school friends.

Mrs Carpenter said: “My daughter and I were at a ‘songs of praise’ event and vicars from around Darlington, of all denominations, gave a speech about their work.

“Colin stood up and said he was here to help the poor of Darlington and it made such an impact on us that we thought we had to get behind him.”

The appeal aims to ensure that every child in Darlington – no matter how unhappy their family life – gets a present on Christmas Day.

Organisers want donations of new toys, or cash donations in lieu of gifts.

Contact the charity on 01325-380994, visit darlingtonsalvationarmy.org.uk, or email darlingtonsalvationarmy@ hotmail.co.uk