GENEROUS residents helped t0 raise more than £4,000 to pay for festive food hampers and presents for some of the poorest families in Colchester and Tendring.

Les Nicoll, Essex Fire Service community builder, has thanked all those who donated to the appeal this year.

A total of £4,480 was raised, surpassing expectations and helping more people than initially hoped for.

Les said: “Our appeal was to create Christmas for 25 struggling families, across Tendring and Colchester for Christmas 2018.

“These are families where there were not only no presents arriving in the morning but the level of poverty was so high there was no real food on the table.

“We were able to give hampers to not 25 families as planned but 52 families - each hamper provided a full English Christmas breakfast, a fresh Turkey crown and all the trimmings, dessert, and a high tea, ham, cheese, spreads, cakes, biscuits, and even a hot chocolate drink and biscuits to have before bed at the end of the day.

“We gave cash for schools, social workers/family solutions to support five other families.

“We gave £250 cash to Social Care to support several young people moving out of foster care into bedsits and small flats at 18 to have a Christmas dinner and tea

“And nearly 200 children will open several presents following a visit from Santa on Christmas eve.”

The unique appeal, supported by the fire service, was launched two years ago after a plea for help for three desperately poor families.

As well as food, Les and his volunteers wrapped and delivered more than 700 presents, gave money for gas and electric to keep families warm on Christmas day and added sanitary items to hampers.

Firefighters from Clacton, Colchester and Dovercourt stations delivered the parcels and at the same time checked smoke alarms.

Les said: “We had more than 40 volunteers from our community and fire service staff from across the county wrapping presents, buying food, creating hampers.

“We received cash donations from Children’s pocket money, new toys removed from the pile of luckier children and placed on the pile of poorer children and £5 slipped into my hand by a little girl in Dovercourt High Street.

“Just think that less than one month ago at the end of November there was nothing: not one penny, not one toy, not one volunteer just a long list of need.”

The appeal is being kept open so donations can been collected throughout next year.

To donate visit