A FAMILY business is hoping to give the emergency services an extra hand by offering free meals this Christmas.

Jane Stevens and her husband Damien - who together run Lizzie's Plaice and Bait Room on North Road, Darlington - wanted to show their thanks to nurses, police, ambulance, and fire crews during their busiest and most stressful time of the year.

Over the Christmas period, from December 1 to January 7, the fish-and-chip shop will be offering free meals to members of the emergency services who come in with ID, in uniform or while on duty.

The couple are hoping their act of kindness will help to make lives a bit easier for blue light crews as they work throughout the festive season.

Mrs Stevens said: "It was my husband’s idea to do it. We always like trying to do nice little things to help people in this down time.

“We’ve done little charity fundraisers and things over the year, like giving a family a free meal for charity.

"We take so much from the community so it's nice to give something back.

“The emergency services always rush in here and rush out because they don’t have time to sit in and have anything to eat. So it’s just nice to give back, because they do a grand job."

Mr and Mrs Stevens have been running Lizzie's Plaice since March 31 of this year after moving to Darlington five years ago.

Previously, Mrs Stevens worked in the town centre as a beautician with her own shop.

For her, the enjoyment of having a business comes from interacting with her customers from day-to day.

She said she was inspired by one customer who bought a meal and donated some extra money to be put aside to pay for the meal of an emergency service worker in the future.

She added: "We have some lovely customers come in. We get a lot of elderly people that come in and share their stories and chat to us.

“One of our customers came in and gave an extra donation so that we could give a meal to the emergency services. She put it on her social media and we sent her a thank you to show we appreciated it.

“We’re community at the end of the day and we have to stick together.

“The services are on their feet all of the time and they don’t get much of a break. They have a very hard job to do.

“The aim of it was to give a little bit back as a thank you."

Mr Stevens, who is an ex-serviceman himself, said: “It’s a job that if they don’t do it, we would be in a massive mess.

“At the end of the day if even one or two workers come in and get a free meal, then there’s one or two who know they’re appreciated.

“I wouldn’t want to be working over the Christmas period like they do, it’s not nice.

"A lot of them have families and children at home and they may not get to spend much time with them over Christmas.”

"They have to deal with a lot of grief from the public on a daily basis and they put themselves in life-threatening situations constantly.

"For the lady to give us a little bit extra to put aside for a meal for the emergency services, to do that makes you feel better about the place you live in.

"We just wanted to do our bit and say thank you."