ORGANISERS of an annual Christmas toy appeal expect to help over 400 families this year.

Volunteers at The Salvation Army in Consett have already started collecting gifts for disadvantaged youngsters across Derwentside.

As well as providing youngsters with new toys to play with on Christmas morning, the appeal also provides families with a traditional festive lunch.

Co-ordinator Joe Toner said: “I would hope that the numbers would be going down. My concern is that the numbers are going to go up this year.

“A big impact has been the change in the benefit system and the introduction of Universal Credit.

“The Department for Work and Pensions are sending people here now and we didn’t have that last year.

“There is going to be a lot of children this year struggling to get toys. We did well over 400 last year and it is going to exceed that this year.”

The appeal has been running for about two weeks now.

Mr Toner said: “People across Derwentside have been very generous and we have got toys coming in continuously. The biggest problem we have is finding something for teenagers.

“Choosing something for them is very difficult.

“They tend not to want toys so what I do is give them aftershaves and the soaps and things like that.

“I have also been going out and buying vouchers so they can go and pick something for themselves.”

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Morrisons have been helping out with staff and customers getting involved.

Luke Carr, the community champion from Tesco in Consett, said: “We have been collecting toys and have put up a Christmas tree on with what we need for different ages. People have been really kind and generous. It is really good to see.

“People are donating all sort, such as gift set for the older one and toys, books and colouring books for the younger ones.”

Rebecca Charlton, from Morrisons said: “As well as the toy appeal we are doing the food bank as well and we have got food hampers going out.

“Customers are donating but staff have also been buying little things to put in. It has been really good. It is really important to help people out. It is such a good charity.”