THE Westmorland Gazette's Hospice Angels campaign has topped its £30,000 target after receiving generous Christmas donations.

An anonymous sum of almost £3,000 was pledged to the fundraiser and a further £2,000 was promised by the Lancaster 160 Round Table.

Blake Prince, charity support officer for Lancaster 160 Round Table said that the club had agreed that it was a worthwhile cause to support.

"The overwhelming opinion is that St John's Hospice is such a vital part of the community that we wanted to do all we could to support it," he said. "All of us have been touched by cancer in some way or another so it's a cause that's very close to our hearts."

The club raises money each year with its March Lancaster Beer Festival and then distributes the funds to worthy causes.

The Hospice Angels campaign launched at the start of September this year, looking to raise £30,000 in order to fund the work of a St John's Hospice at Home nurse for one year.

Set up over a decade ago, the Hospice at Home nurses work alongside district nurses and GPs to deliver end of life care, often attending to patients in teams of two and making a total of 5,000 visits every year.

St John's Hospice, based in Lancaster, costs £4m to run each year. A third of this money comes from the NHS but the rest is dependent on donations.

Sue McGraw, chief executive of the hospice, said that she was 'so grateful' to the readers of the Gazette for getting behind the campaign.

"To raise £30,000 in such a short space of time is remarkable and, once again, demonstrates the tremendous generosity of our local community," she said. "As we head into the Christmas period, your kindness means that we can continue to help local families and the people they love day and night.

"We are a small, local charity so without your help our care could not continue, thank you to The Westmorland Gazette for this opportunity and, most of all, thank you to everyone so much for supporting St John’s."

The nurses work every day of the year and are available 24-hours a day - covering the South Lakes, north Lancashire and North Yorkshire - offering specialist palliative care at the end of life to allow those who wish to remain in their homes during their final days.

It is due to their caring natures and the invaluable support that the nurses offer that they have earned their 'angel' status.

Over the past four months, the Gazette has told the stories of those most directly affected by the fantastic work that the Hospice Angels undertake.

Shirley Mørch, whose personal story about the care her husband received helped launch the campaign, said that she was 'delighted and overwhelmed' by the public’s response.

"I am passionate about the service they provide," she said. "I know just how much they helped us when we needed them, they helped keep Chris at home and it helped us to focus on what mattered to us rather than what was the matter with him."

Siobhan Newton's mother, Jennifer, was cared for by the team in her Hornby home during the end of her life also shared her story.

"Without the generous support of donations, legacies and fundraising efforts we would not have this amazing resource on our doorstep, or in our homes," Siobhan said. "I will continue to do anything I can to ensure it is there when my Dad needs it, and when I do!"

The campaign has been supported by individuals like 71-year-old June Phillips, who was sponsored to shave her head; businesses such as Lakeland Ltd, which gave £500 and clubs such as the Rotary Club of Kendal that collected money.

MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron, took part in a half marathon to boost funds. He said that the campaign would 'transform' the lives of vulnerable local people.

"The staff at St John’s Hospice do a fantastic job, but are very stretched," he said. "Thanks to this campaign by the Gazette, more local residents will be able to receive top quality care at home as they approach the end of their lives.

"I’d like to thank the Gazette for running this excellent campaign, and to congratulate them on its spectacular success. My thanks also go to all the local people who have supported this appeal."

Editor of The Westmorland Gazette, Andrew Thomas, said that it had been 'wonderful' to see the community come together in aid of the nurses and their worthy work.

"I cannot think of a better Christmas gift than this! My thanks go out to the readers of the Gazette," he said. "It is through their efforts that we have managed to raise such a fantastic amount of money.

"I would also like to thank those who have been kind enough to share their personal stories with our readers as without them our campaign would not have been the success it has been."