A SHOE shop owner has done his bit to help families in need in the run up to Christmas.

John Bakewell has been at the helm of Harvey's Shoe Shop in Haltwhistle for the best part of a decade.

He took over the business, formerly known as G& K Liddell Footwear in 2012, when long-serving Gordon and Kathleen Liddell retired after 30 years at the helm.

Like many shopkeepers, John has endured a challenging year with Covid restrictions having a huge impact on the economy.

But there was no hiding his generosity when asked to help publicise a well-meaning cause.

Northumberland County of Sanctuary (NCoS) helps to support hundreds of refugees from across the world who are seeking asylum.

NCoS member Wendy Bond, of Greenhead, was taken aback when John offered to donate almost 30 pairs of shoes to the organisation's School Shoes Appeal.

"I only went in to ask if he would display a poster," said Wendy. "John immediately offered to see what he could do."

"The following week I drove to the church hall in Ashington, where we held weekly-drop-ins prior to Covid, with the car completely full of boxes of shoes. It was a wonderful start to our efforts."

Wendy said NCoS offers a warm welcome to the asylum seekers now settled in the country by the Home Office.

She added: "The arrival of sleet and snow, while great fun for children, is always a challenge for parents who want to keep their feet dry and warm. For the children of people seeking asylum, many of whom are now happily housed in our county, it is a nightmare as their resources barely cover food and clothing."

The School Shoe Fund has been a great success, with individual donations from people all over the country, and a large contribution from the Lions in Morpeth.

"It has been a great response, meeting an obvious need so quickly," said Wendy. "The children have settled very well into their schools, picking up the language at speed, with Geordie overtones, of course, and with their parents, contributing to their school community with gusto."

John said: "We had some shoes and which had come to the end of the range, and with many children looking for the very latest in fashion and style, I knew I had some excellent quality footwear which could be put to good use.

"Wendy wanted to promote the appeal but I knew immediately that I could help and that I wanted to help. It's such a worthy cause."

John praised local people for supporting local businesses during the pandemic, and said there was an encouraging upturn in trade after the end of the first lockdown during the summer.

He's also extended the range at Harvey's, which is located on Westgate, to include outdoor clothing for both men and women, as well as shirts and ties for gentlemen.