More than 1,000 families in County Durham and Sunderland have benefited thanks to the generosity of a firm’s Christmas appeal.

Seaham-based Great Annual Savings Group (GAS) ran a December community campaign to distribute gifts, food parcels and donations totalling £20,000.

The campaign also included players, management, colleagues and supporters of Spennymoor Town FC, which is owned by GAS Chief Executive, Brad Groves.

The Group secured its own delivery methods through a range of partners to distribute the donations to the communities in Spennymoor, Seaham, Peterlee, Easington Lane and Hetton-le-Hole.  All are areas in which the Group operates.

GAS colleagues donated £2,500 worth of food items, which made up emergency hampers and were distributed through Seaham High School and local foodbanks to those in need in the Seaham community.

Spennymoor Town supporters, players, academy families and colleagues matched that effort, with a further £2,500 worth of food items distributed to elderly people living in isolation and those who need support in Spennymoor.  This was delivered with the assistance of Whitworth Park Academy, Spennymoor Youth and Community Centre and St Paul’s Church Food Bank.

The festive cheer does not stop there.  GAS and Spennymoor Town colleagues have also donated cash through a festive fundraising calendar, which soared past £6,000.  This was used to by Dene Park Academy to provide food parcels for vulnerable people in Peterlee.  The remaining £5,000 was used by Easington Lane Community Access Point (ELCAP) to create Christmas emergency food hampers for distribution in Hetton and Easington Lane.

Finally, the Group supported a selection of smaller Christmas appeals in Sunderland and County Durham with the remaining cash.

Haswell and District Mencap received gifts worth £1,200, which were delivered to 100 adults with learning disabilities, whilst Hetton Juniors FC received more than £3,000 of winter training kit, sponsored by GAS.

Hayley Hood, Chief Executive at the Haswell and District of Mencap, said: “If you ever wondered what Christmas spirit looked like, this is it!

“The pandemic has had a huge detrimental effect on our charity.  Christmas time is usually such a special time for all of our members with a learning disability, with parties and celebrations.

“Unfortunately, we have been unable to raise funds to pay for Christmas presents this year.  GAS stepped in and saved our Christmas, supporting with the costs of presents and also a visit from Santa Claus and his Elves in the Santa Wagon.  We will be eternally grateful.”

Alison Carr, Assistant Headteacher at Seaham High School, said: “We are absolutely astonished by the generosity of GAS staff, who have kindly donated items of food for Christmas hampers.

“In the midst of the chaos of coronavirus, particularly in the Seaham area, it is the people on the lowest incomes who will be hit hardest.  We cannot express how wonderful it will be to put a smile on so many families’ faces when we deliver these hampers.  It will ensure our neighbours don’t go hungry at Christmas.”

Shaun Newton, Centre Co-ordinator at ELCAP, said: “GAS’ help will make an otherwise forgettable Christmas memorable for so many people.  Their desire to deliver a positive impact at a crucial time for our area is going to be important and I look forward to working with them more in 2021.”

Kelvin Simpson, Chief Executive of Advance Learning Partnership (ALP), said: “ALP are proud to be associated with the Great Annual Savings Christmas project to support the elderly and disadvantaged residents in our local communities.

“Once again, Whitworth Park Academy and Dene Academy students have excelled in organising and delivering the Christmas food hampers in Spennymoor and Peterlee.”

Brad Groves, Chief Executive of GAS and Spennymoor Town, said: “As a region, we have been hit hard by the pandemic.  We are just seeing the start of the job losses and economic impact.

“I believe it is the duty of those who are able to offer support to do so.  I include myself and my businesses in that.

“I would like to thank all of our colleagues at GAS and Spennymoor Town, as well as the players and supporters of the club, for stepping up and helping us create significant impact in such a short space of time.

“I would also like to thank our distribution partners who have been so valuable in providing us the delivery methods to distribute this value.  Dene Park Academy, Whitworth Park Academy, Seaham High School, Elcap, Mencap, Hetton Juniors, the local area foodbanks and many more have all come together for the good of their communities at a crucial time.

“We are looking to increase our footprint further in the communities in which we operate in 2021.”