VOLUNTEERS ensured the seasonal period was ever-green as they collected discarded Christmas trees to raise much-needed funds for a popular hospice.
More than 1,600 festive firs continued the sustainability cycle by being chipped into biomass power thanks to the efforts of Darlington Rotary Club.
In the process, the event raised more than £12,000 for St Teresa’s Hospice, which is currently forecasting huge deficit budgets and relying heavily on reserves, while working through the current economic challenges and the reviews being carried out by the NHS.
It costs around £3.5m a year to provide free in-patient and community care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire, and the hospice must raise around two thirds of this from its own fundraising and retail activities.
Now in its 12th year, the event saw more than 80 Rotary Club volunteers crew 16 vans over two days to collect the trees around the area, with householders making a donation to the hospice.
Using Darlington Vauxhall dealer Drive as a base, the trees were chipped on-site by Greenworx Ltd, whose directors Brett and Ryan Skelton were giving back to the hospice for looking after their mother Hazel who died two years ago.
Brett, of Darlington, said: “The hospice staff were fantastic looking after our mam when she was poorly so it’s great to be able to do something by way of thanks.”
Tree surgeon Jackson Trees volunteered additional chipping facilities. Vans were loaned free of charge by Enterprise Rent a Car and Charter Self Drive.
Greenworx Ltd, which also makes a donation to the hospice from the proceeds of the chippings, provided a second chipper and volunteers based at Redworth Hall Hotel for the Aycliffe area. Taylors the Butchers donated hundreds of pies for the volunteers.
Rotary Club organiser David Hayward said: “This is a very valuable community service event which we all look forward to every year. We have seen it grow from just a couple of vans collecting 360 trees 12 years ago and it is fantastic to see so many volunteers turn out to help this very worthwhile cause.”
St Teresa’s Hospice deputy chief executive Nicola Myers said: “I can’t remember a period so difficult as the one we are currently going through because of the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis, so events like these are a true lifeline.
“Demand on our services is exceptionally high at the moment and our in-patient unit (IPU) is full. To put this latest amazing fundraising in context, £12,000 could pay for the food for patients being cared for in the IPU for the whole year.
“It could also help keep the heating on in the Wellbeing Hub at the Woodlands, which hosts a variety of activities and support groups, ensuring it will be warm and cosy for patients and families. So events like these make a real difference to the lives of patients, their families and our staff.”