CHARITIES are thousands of pounds better off thanks to a big shopping event.

Durham Shopping Extravaganza 2000 was held at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Carville, in October, when more than 60 traders from across the county donated a percentage of their takings to charity and helped to 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 towards their work.

The cheques were presented to the charities in a ceremony at the Ramside Hall Hotel yesterday.

Lesley Sutherland, who received the gift on behalf of the rescue team, said it was a great Christmas present for the group.

"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 and wish them every success in their fundraising."

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

Sareth Nainby-Luxmoore, chairman of the event, said: "I think we can say we made a record profit this year by a couple of hundred pounds. The number of people who attended was quite sharply up on last year."