A LEIGH-based firm is marking its 50th anniversary by helping the homeless have a happier Christmas.

Astley Hire intended to pack a shoebox with gifts for every year of its existence and give them all to people living on the streets via the Manchester Homeless Christmas Shoebox Appeal.

But following marathon efforts from its 25 staff, extended family and friends and generous business customers the firm has more than doubled its target, filling over 100 shoeboxes with small gifts, toiletries, winter woollies and even pet products.

The bumper haul has been delivered to Leigh-based Adactus Housing Group, which has volunteered to be a collection hub for the Manchester Homeless Shoebox Appeal, run by Manchester Street Angels.

The boxes will be distributed to shelters and homeless people living on the streets of Greater Manchester in the run up to Christmas.

Lorraine Warburton, a buyer at the family-run hire firm, organised the collection.

She said: “When a colleague mentioned a target of collecting 50 boxes to coincide with our anniversary, I thought it was a great idea.

"It was a tall order but I was sure we could do it.

“We had so many donations, we just kept going.

“Absolutely everyone has got behind it. I have helped to co-ordinate but I have had lots of elves running round and helping me."

Astley Hire turned one of its training rooms into a production line over the course of 10 days and invited staff to bring in any unwanted gifts or goods from home.

They also took turns in their tea breaks to pack and gift wrap, while others went into town to buy goods with the cash staff and customers had donated to the appeal.

Astley Hire’s commercial director Stephen Dorricott said: “I am so proud of our staff for getting into true spirit of Christmas and giving this charity appeal 110 per cent.

"It is a fantastic achievement to be sending 100 shoeboxes out into our community to those who really need our care and support.”

Operational director Michael Dorricott added: “Thank you to everybody who has helped to make a difference to people who would otherwise go without.”

Astley Hire, based in Lloyd Court on Jury Street, was established in 1966 by Cyril and Mildred Dorricott when they started hiring water pumps to motorway construction contractors out of the family’s grocery and hardware shop in Astley.

Fifty years on Astley Hire now has six divisions, hiring and servicing industrial access machines, cleaning, cooling and heating equipment, scaffolding and tools to trade and industry customers across the north west.