THOUSANDS of gifts are on their way to a good home after the Giving Tree appeal recorded its most successful year to date.

More than 2,000 presents and donations have been collected since the annual Christmas appeal's launch last month, and involved record numbers of local businesses and more schools, churches and community groups.

The appeal aims to help under-privileged individuals and families in the Darlington community.

They can now look forward to receiving a gift or hamper in time for Christmas, with staff and volunteers who are overseeing the appeal working all hours to ensure the gifts arrive in time.

People across the town were asked to buy one extra present when out shopping, or give unwanted gifts to a better home.

Donations for children included coveted Bratz and King Kong dolls and remote controlled cars, and adult presents included books and watches.

Businesses and groups in the town also donated money, including Escapade nightclub, which raised £3,239 during the year through events and bucket collections.

The Giving Tree, now in its ninth year, is organised by Darlington Borough Council and the town's adult social services department. It is backed by The Northern Echo, Alpha FM, Asda and Travelcare.

Janet Walke, appeal co-ordinator, said the reponse to the appeal had been wonderful, adding: "It's been an excellent year, definitely the best yet, and it's been really good fun for everyone.

"The quality of the presents is out of this world," she said. "People's generosity has been fantastic, and children, adults and families across Darlington can look forward to receiving some lovely presents.

"Everyone involved, whether it be businesses or individual people, has been only too keen to help and we are really grateful."

Brian Thistlethwaite, council cabinet member for adult services, thanked everyone who had donated gifts.

"The Giving Tree Appeal has gone from strength to strength over the past nine years," he said.

"The people of Darlington and beyond have warmed to the appeal which, without their support and that of local businesses, would not be the success it is."