HUNDREDS of seafarers set to spend Christmas away from home have been given a festive boost.
Hartlepool’s Mission to Seafarers Centre, in Seal Sands Road, has collected a record haul of more than 1,500 gifts to hand out to seafarers whose ships are docked in the area this week.
The mountain of donated gifts have been collected and wrapped into 300 parcels by volunteers at the centre over the past few months.
Presents, which include gloves, confectionery, aftershave, clothes and toiletries, will be handed to those working on different ships from around the world including Europe and Asia.
Centre manager Aidan Webster, 48, said the seafarers spend months away from home working in very hostile and dangerous environments.
Mr Webster, who lives in the Grange Road area of Hartlepool, said: “The seafarers are away from home for months at a time.
“It is great for them to receive a gift and open it on Christmas Day, knowing that their families are doing exactly the same at home.
“It really brightens up their Christmas, whether they are in the docks or out at sea.
“I would like to thank everybody that donated a gift this year.”
The Mission to Seafarers Centre, which recently hosted a Christmas party, is open all year round and provides a vital lifeline to those away from home.
It is a chance for them to relax and contact their friends and family back home via email and telephone.
Every year hundreds of presents are handed out by the charity, which is part of the Anglican Church.
Church groups donated gifts and the centre has also received gifts from schools this year.
More than 1,000 seafarers visit the centre every month from countries across Europe and Asia.
It was opened in 1996 by Princess Anne and facilities include a pool table, Nintendo Wii console, television, computer, chapel and reading room.
The centre is open normal Sunday working hours on Christmas Day between 7pm and 11pm and on Boxing Day between 11am and 11pm.
The Mission to Seafarers Centre is looking to extend its opening hours, but needs the help of more volunteers.
For more information or to volunteer your services call the centre on (01642) 546424.