CHARITIES across County Durham are thousands of pounds better off thanks to a shopping event.

Durham Shopping Extravaganza 2000 was held at the Ramside Hotel, Carville, in October, where more than 60 traders from across the country donated a percentage of their takings to charity and helped raise £15,000.

Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team, St Teresa's Hospice in Darlington and The Children's Foundation Yellow Brick Road Appeal, based in Newcastle, each received £5,000.

The cheques were handed over at a ceremony at Ramside Hall Hotel last week.

Lesley Sutherland, who collected the donation on behalf of the rescue team, said it was a great Christmas present.

"We are currently raising funds to equip our new rescue centre in Barnard Castle, which will be operational from April 2001," she said.

"This will enable us to continue to provide and develop our search and rescue service.

"We are extremely grateful to the committee of the Durham Shopping Extravaganza."

In the past 12 years, the event has raised more than £100,000 for charities in and around County Durham.

Sareth Nainby-Luxmoore, chairman of the extravaganza, said: "I think we can say we made a record profit this year."