NORTH-East communities have been granted a near-£500,000 boost with the announcement of the latest Awards For All Lottery hand-outs.

A total of 120 groups from the region have received between £500 and £5,000 each - many of which had applied for the very first time.

But groups in the Tees Valley area are being urged to be more aware of the awards, with only 19 benefiting in this round, to the total of £65,150, and organisers say this could be much more.

Pat Lowes, the North-East's senior awards officer, said: "Our job is to get Lottery money out to local communities.

"Of the 120 successful awards made, 83 of them had never applied for Lottery funding before. We hope that since there has been such a lot of successful applications that this will encourage more Lottery shy groups to apply for Awards For All."

This scheme is aimed particularly at groups with no experience of getting Lottery funding.

Mrs Lowes said: "This is a very exciting time for the Awards For All programme as we have just welcomed on board New Opportunities Fund as the fifth partner in our programme.

"This represents a new phase for Awards for All and it means that groups can now apply for funding for community projects with a focus on improving health, education and the environment, as well as sport, arts, heritage and charitable activities."

Among the big winners were Darlington Secondary Schools Sports Association (£4,912), Ormesby Secondary School, in Middlesbrough (£4,565), Levendale Parent Teacher Association, Stockton on Tees (£5,000), Durham Area Disabled Leisure Group, Chester-le-Street (£5,000), Wheatley Hill Heritage Society, County Durham (£5,000) and Westgate College Table Tennis Club, Newcastle (£5,000).