Thefts of donated clothing could be costing an air ambulance service thousands of pounds, which could have been used to help save lives across the region.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service's (GNAAS) recycling arm said it has seen a rise in bags of donated clothing being stolen.
John Ballan, who manages the charity’s trading company, said: “We really appreciate everyone who fills their bags with unwanted clothing and other items to support GNAAS, but unfortunately, we have seen an increase in bag thefts.
“There have been reports of people in unmarked vans picking up our bags which clearly display our name and logo and are obviously not intended for them.
“Every time one of these bags is not picked up by our team, the charity is losing money, which could have been spent on providing life-saving care in region.”
The charity raises on average £15,000 a month which covers the cost of three missions carried out by the critical care team.
To prevent bag thefts, the GNAAS trading company offers a service Monday toSaturday, where people can book in a collection at a pre-arranged time.
The service is available across Cumbria and the North East and can be booked over the phone or via its Facebook page.
Mr Ballan said: “We visit different areas during the week to pick up the bags and all our vans are clearly identifiable with GNAAS branding.
"We’ve seen an increase in arranged collections since the pandemic as we can provide contact-free doorstep collections, and it also means that the public don’t have to wait for a bag to be delivered through the door and can use a bin bag or another container for their unwanted items.”
There are several supporters of the charity who host community collections at their homes, as well as locations such as business premises and village halls.
Jordan Mattinson, 29, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, is just one of the supporters who has utilised spare space to store clothing donated by the local community.
He said: “We decided to utilise the empty Whitehaven Rugby Club and make use of the spare time we had on our hands, little did we know the first collection would amass over 10 tonnes of clothing.
“It shows how much the local community value the services of GNAAS.”