If the true spirit of Christmas is giving, then the people of north Northumberland have proved once again that they are truly festive.
For the third year in a row, the Jam Jar Army campaign has been a roaring success, as the total for dog charity SHAK has now smashed through the £10,000 target.
Stephen Wylie, from the charity, said: “The whole Jam Jar exercise has been a fantastic experience and I have been blown away by the amount of support we have had from the readers.
“Reaching the £10,000 mark before Christmas is an amazing achievement and one we’re all very proud of.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported us and helped us get this far.
“Last, but not least, thanks to my mam who has counted every last penny!”
The concept of filling empty jars with loose change was the brainchild of author Judith O’Reilly.
Teaming up with the Gazette, the first Jam Jar Army campaign, for HospiceCare North Northumberland, was launched in May 2011.
The community took to the idea with aplomb and £13,000 was raised for the charity, which supports people with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
Following on from that success, we opened the 2012 campaign up to nominations, allowing our readers to vote from a shortlist of local beneficiaries.
The Alnwick Playhouse Youth Theatre won and went on to raise more than £12,000 to allow youngsters from across north Northumberland the opportunity to sing, dance and act.
Earlier this year, we went through the same process and SHAK was the worthy winner.
And once again, the generosity of our communities has shone through, with the total currently £11,025.63.
It means that in just over two-and-a-half years, our readers have raised more than £36,000 for three charities operating in north Northumberland.
Gazette editor Paul Larkin said: “This is a fantastic achievement for SHAK and another great success for the Jam Jar Army, which really highlights the generosity of you, our readers.”
But the fund-raising doesn’t stop here. We are continuing to collect jars full of coins for SHAK to raise as much money as possible.
Then, at the start of next year, we will open up the nomination process for next year’s beneficiary, which again will go to the public vote.
Until the new campaign starts, we want readers to keep on collecting their pennies for SHAK.
Full jars can be dropped off at the Gazette office, on Bondgate Without in Alnwick, Taylor’s newsagents or the Lions bookshop, both Bondgate Within.
l And SHAK is also set to receive a boost from an unlikely source – dog-fouling fines.
As part of Northumberland County Council’s zero-tolerance approach to dog fouling, there has been an upsurge in enforcement activity in 2013.
So far this year, 74 fines have been issued and the money raised is now funding the council’s 2014 dog rescue calendar, from which all the proceeds of sale are going to dog charities across Northumberland, including SHAK.
Stephen Wylie said: “Another great calendar, with so many faces we’ve helped throughout the last twelve months, and we are grateful to the council for including SHAK. We value our close working with public protection’s animal welfare team.”