READERS of The Northern Echo have been sent a huge "thank you" after making this year's Giving Tree Appeal the most successful ever.

Families across the Darlington area and businesses around the region have swamped collection centres with presents for needy homes in the borough.

As well as The Northern Echo, the fifth annual appeal has seen gifts taken to Asda stores in Darlington and Spennymoor, and Alpha Radio in Darlington.

The gifts are now being delivered, and Darlington Borough Council's social services department will continue to do so right up to Christmas.

Event organiser Janet Robinson, from the council, said: "It's been absolutely brilliant. We are delivering as we speak all over town and we have already responded to a few emergencies that have been happening after the end of the referral period.

"It's been a marvellous response to the appeal and we would like to say a big 'thank you'."

Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, said: "This is the first time The Northern Echo has been so heavily involved in this worthwhile appeal, which makes Christmas special for so many families.

"The response from readers has been overwhelming, and is a wonderful testament to Darlington's community spirit."