Can you help spread some winter warmth in Sunderland?

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WARM-HEARTED businesses are rallying round to help the homeless.

Firms in Sunderland and Seaham are among those to sign up as drop off points for this year’s Winter Coat Amnesty, which invites people to have a clear-out of cosy clothes in aid of Crisis.

Items collected in coming months will be distributed to homeless and vulnerable people across the North East as part of the Christmas campaign.

The appeal is now in its fourth year and has grown each time, with more than 50 businesses agreeing to become collection centres.

In Sunderland, Cool Designs, in Hepworth Road on North Hylton Enterprise Park, and De Niros Barbers, in East Herrington, have signed up.

And Lickety Split ice cream parlour in North Terrace, Seaham, is also on board.

Cindy Bettcher, who runs Lickety Split with her son Carl Thompson, said: “It’s the first year we have collected.

“They got in touch through Facebook to ask if we knew any business that would take coats and I said we will.

“I’m expecting a good response from our customers.”

Darrel Birkett, managing director of Cool Designs, a air conditioning design firm, added: “I’ve been giving to them for a few years myself.

“We have a van which goes up to Newcastle, so we thought we could make use of it for this.

“We’re very active in helping the local area, and this is part of that.”

Organised by longtime Crisis Christmas volunteers Andy Brown and Claire Paczko, the campaign has now re-gifted many thousands of items of unwanted winter clothing since it was launched.

Claire said: “The donated clothing goes to Crisis because we want to encourage vulnerable people to use their service and other similar organisations who offer education, training and formal learning opportunities which lead to qualifications and finding work.

“We only run this campaign leading up to Christmas because we are trying to solve a problem, not sustain one and by giving out sleeping bags and clothing all year perpetuates homelessness and does not promote self sufficiency.

“However, we understand that during the coldest months of the year it can be extremely difficult for people to stay warm.

“With the Winter Coat Amnesty, we believe we offer intervention which enables vulnerable people to survive during the winter months.”

Andy added: “Every year the campaign and the generosity of local people never ceases to amaze us.

“The clothing store at Crisis is now an established and popular part of Christmas with thousands of redistributed winter clothing donated last year.

“Our aim is that by coming in to Crisis, guests at Christmas are inspired, find the confidence and support they need to rebuild their social and practical skills, join the world of work and reintegrate into society.”

The donation stations across the North East can be found on the Winter Coat Amnesty website: wintercoatamnesty.blogspot.co.uk, on Twitter @wintercoatsNE or Facebook www.facebook.com/wintercoatamnesty.