Donations have flooded in for an annual appeal that aims to help save the lives of older people in winter.

It is only a week since the launch of Cumbria’s Winter Warmth Appeal – yet an impressive £23,000 already given. This year’s target for the appeal is £150,000.

Experts say cold homes are a hidden killer, contributing to the deaths of 300 older Cumbrians each year, with many forced to choose between heating or eating. In the coldest years, the toll can reach 500.

Cath Giel, Director, Communications & Stakeholder Relations at LLW Repository Ltd, which has donated £2,500 to the Winter Warmth Appeal, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into even sharper focus the plight of vulnerable older people who are unable to leave their homes.

“This makes it more important than ever that the Winter Warmth Appeal receives widespread support, so no one in Cumbria struggles to heat their home this year, of all years."

“We are delighted to again get behind this wonderful initiative, and the fact that our donation has been match-funded by other generous backers of the Appeal makes it feel doubly worthwhile, and means more people are able to stay warm and feel secure through this difficult time of the year.”

Donations have come from individuals across the county, including many who have donated their Government winter fuel allowance because they don’t need it.

The Winter Warmth Appeal is run by Cumbria Community Foundation in partnership with Age UK, with support from Newsquest Cumbria, publisher of The Cumberland News.

Last year 1,166 local older people were helped to keep warm, after generous Cumbrians donated more than £200,000 to the appeal.

Many pensioners have spoken of how vital the grants are, including Frank, 75, from Penrith. “The grant has made all the difference in the world,” he said. “It means I can keep warm and have a decent Christmas dinner.”

Vanessa Sims, regional group editor at Newsquest, said: “We are thrilled with the way our readers have responded to our campaign so quickly – and we’d urge you not to stop now! We know Cumbrians are generous people who care for each other especially when times are hard.

“This year is tough for everyone – especially for those older members of our communities, many of who may be staying at home most of the time in order to keep safe from coronavirus.

“We want them to know that they are not alone and forgotten. Helping older people to heat their homes is one crucial way we can make sure they are able to stay safe and well this winter.

“Donations are paid out in grants directly to vulnerable local people in need so if you haven’t donated already, please think about making a donation soon. Every little helps.”

This year, any donations made between Monday 16th November and midday Monday 14th December will be doubled with match funding to double the impact.