A CHARITABLE fund that has been helping elderly Cumbrians keep warm through the winter for 10 years now is celebrating reaching the £1 million mark.

And it is launching this year’s campaign with a target of raising another £150,000.

Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal was launched to help pensioners who struggle to pay their heating bills.

One in eight households in Cumbria are said to be living in fuel poverty, and older people in cold homes can become to become seriously ill or even die during the winter. In the severest winters more than 500 have died.

The appeal came out of a conversation between volunteer Myles Walker and Andy Beeforth, chief executive of the community foundation.

Mr Walker, now 81, used to deliver medicines for a surgery in Penrith for people stuck at home and recalled: “One such patient, living in a small cottage, spent day and night in one room.

“She could not afford electricity for heating and seldom cooked. I told Andy Beeforth of my ambition to form a fund to help the many other elderly people in similar circumstances. He and his wonderful team formed The Winter Warmth Appeal.”

Donations often come from well-off pensioners who feel their Government Winter Fuel Allowance could go to someone in greater need.

Since its launch, thousands of older people in the county have received grants of between £150 and £250 to keep their homes warm. Organisers hope to make more than 1,000 grants this winter.

This year’s appeal will be officially launched on Monday and will run until March. But if £57,000 can be reached by Monday, December 11, then seven charities are promising to double it.

Match funding from EDF Renewables, Sellafield Ltd, John Laing Charitable Trust, WCF Ltd, The Hadfield Trust, The Johnson Fund and The Roselands Trust could bring the total to £114,000.

Many pensioners have spoken of how it has helped. John, 73, from Penrith, has been in a wheelchair for 18 years and said: “It’s helped with my electric and gas bills. I am very cold when I get home and need to warm up. It’s handy to have the winter warmth grant.”

And Linda, 67, from Distington, said: “Last year they took the gas fire out and put an electric one in, which is much more expensive to run, but we’re tenants so we can’t choose what we have. We both get stuck in the house quite a lot for health reasons, so the money means we keep warm.”

Mr Beeforth added: “Many of our grant giving funds start with one person’s desire to make the world a better place, and I will be ever grateful to Myles for his idea. What better way to see what a difference Cumbrians make by helping fellow Cumbrians?”

To donate go to www.cumbriafoundation.org/winter-warmth-fund or www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/winter-warmth-appeal or send a cheque payable to Cumbria Community Foundation (with “Winter Warmth on the back) to Cumbria Community Foundation, Dovenby Hall, Dovenby, Cockermouth CA13 0PN.