WHEN Juliet Sanders offered to deliver a free sofa she had advertised online in December 2016 she had no idea the encounter would lead to her setting up a charitable organisation.

The NHS worker and her husband arrived to find a mother and her five children in a house with no furniture. Christmas was fast approaching and the woman had wrapped up empty boxes to give to the children as she could not afford to buy presents.

Mrs Sanders, who was moving from Gateshead to Bishop Auckland at the time, discovered the woman’s husband had been attacked and was unable to work due to his injuries. They had lost everything and, while the woman had managed to secure rented accommodation, she had no money to furnish the property or celebrate Christmas.

Determined to help, Mr and Mrs Sanders made up a hamper of festive treats for the family.

The following year, they were contacted by a friend who expressed a wish to do something similar for a family in need in her area. Mrs Sanders was curious to see if more people felt the same and put a post on Facebook asking whether there were families who needed hampers and people happy to supply them.

The grandmother-of-five received more than 200 responses and last December she and a growing team of supporters matched hundreds of families in crisis to local hamper donors. Many businesses, including TK Max in Bishop Auckland, held collections and donated goods, allowing the volunteers to create even more hampers. In total, 719 festive hampers were delivered across the North-East

This was the start of Feeding Families North East and, this summer, the committee of six volunteers have applied to become a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO). More than 2,000 people have liked the Facebook page and a new website will be launched soon.

Mrs Sanders, 59, said: “When we made up that first hamper I never imagined that it would lead to something like this. It just shows the power of social media. You hear a lot of bad things about it but this shows it can be a force for good. Facebook has allowed us to reach out to people who have nowhere to turn and it has brought people together who want to help.”

She added: “When we think of Christmas we think about the festivities - socialising with friends, opening presents and eating nice food. In reality, for many people, its not like this. This is about getting back to the true spirit of Christmas rather than the commercial side of it.”

On Friday, July 6, at 7pm, the team is holding a fundraising and awareness event at the Dairy Barn in North Bitchburn near Crook. For £15, guests can enjoy afternoon tea, live music and can find out more about Feeding Families.

To book, contact the team through Facebook or email events@feedingfamilies.org.uk