THE Yorkshire Post today makes a final call for readers and local businesses to help the region's neediest people as our Communities in Need appeal total passes £260,000.
That is how much has now been raised for charities and small community projects across Yorkshire since the campaign began in November.
The appeal was run in association with the Yorkshire Community Foundations, a charity network that issues grants to worthy projects up and down the region. It has also received the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron, with many donations being match-funded 1 for 1 through the Government's Grassroots Grants programme.
A "sizeable" pledge from family-run department store Harveys of Halifax this week helped push our total beyond 250,000 just days before the appeal closes.
Managing director Tracy Harvey said: "The match-funding was a driving force behind our donation – giving this money seemed like a great way of getting extra money to the Halifax community.
"Another driver was the fact that these are obviously difficult times and more people are in need of some help.
"With funding drying up from other sources, these sorts of charity schemes are going to become increasingly important."
Community Foundation spokeswoman Sally-Anne Greenfield called on Yorkshire Post readers who have not yet pledged money to do so before the appeal closes on Tuesday.
She said: "The response to the Communities in Need appeal has been just fantastic - I'm constantly amazed by the generosity of people who dig deep to help those in need when asked to do so.
"We want readers and local businesses to make one final push and donate some money before the appeal ends. Every penny donated will be spent here in Yorkshire to help some of the most deprived people in the region."
Over the past two months the Yorkshire Post has exposed deprivation across the region.
We found elderly people in Leeds who cannot afford to heat their homes, and struggling families in east Yorkshire reliant upon charity hand-outs despite being in work.
We told the story of a homeless man in York who spent part of the winter living in a snow hole, and others in Rotherham who have been living on the streets for years.
We have also highlighted the astonishing work undertaken by small charities and community groups around the region. These are the types of group that will benefit from the Communities in Need appeal.
Some cash will be distributed as grants by the community foundations over the coming weeks, while the rest will be placed in endowment funds.
One group of elderly people that benefited from a community foundation grant is the Lower Wincobank Tenants' and Residents' Association (TARA) in Sheffield. They received 540 last summer to pay for chairobics sessions for elderly residents.
At one free weekly class on the housing estate, the smiles on the face of each senior citizen said it all as a trainer takes them through exercises to help their arthritis.
Concerns have emerged that the sessions may have to stop as the TARA struggles to find the funds to retain its 36-a-session trainer.
TARA secretary Ann Bentley, 70, said: "These classes are important because there are a lot of older people on our estate who suffer with arthritis.
"As you get older your joints get stiffer and it's good that we can do something to try to help that. Doctors recommend it so it's got to be a good thing. But without grants we can't carry it on.
"The money we've had has made a huge difference, but unless we get the grant again or some other grants, we won't be able to do it."
Trainer Paul Crossley gets the senior citizens doing seated exercises to music and also arranges sit-down versions of netball and curling.
Valerie Woodward, 64, said: "I suffer with arthritis and these sessions mean a lot to me. I can't do some of the exercises – but I always have a go. Once I've done it I go home and I feel a lot better.
"If this class wasn't happening, I'd just be sat there at home doing nothing, so it's really important to me."
Three Easy ways you can donate
Log on to www.justgiving.com/communitiesinneed Secure donations can be made at the website using credit or debit cards.
2. SEND A CHEQUE
Make cheques payable to the LCF Communities In Need Appeal, and send to: Leeds Community Foundation, 51a St Paul's Street, Leeds LS1 2TE. When sending in cheques, donors must include their contact details to check if the donation is eligible for GiftAid.
3. PAY IN AT THE BANK
Simply walk into any branch of the Yorkshire Bank and make a donation to the LCF Communities in Need appeal. Quote the following details: Account No 11479437, Sort Code 05-00-20.