Autism charity makes unusual donation request - could you help?

By Nicole Goodwin

A North East charity is appealing for donations this autumn – but it's not cash they are seeking.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) is calling on people across the region to donate apples from gardens and allotments.

The apples will support with the delivery of vocational training programmes at New Warlands Farm in County Durham.

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Based in Edmondsley, the charity's unique training centre provides a daily timetable of activities for autistic adults, including horticulture, food production, woodwork and textiles.

Last year the training programme was expanded to include fruit juice production, with the charity launching its own brand of pure apple juice, which is handmade and bottled on site by service users.

Each bottle of the juice also features artwork by NEAS patron Mackenzie Thorpe, after the artist created a new pastel work called "Picked With Love" specifically for the charity.

NEAS CEO John Phillipson said: "Our apple juice has proved hugely popular – so much so, we actually sold all of our remaining stock at the Wolsingham Show last month.

"We have planted around 150 apple trees at New Warlands Farm but they don't yet produce enough apples to meet demand, so we're relying on public donations to enable our adults to continue producing the juice as part of their vocational training programme."

In addition to adult day services, New Warlands Farm is also home to the charity's short breaks service, which offers respite care for adults aged 16 and over in six purpose-built lodges.

Due to increasing demand for the service, the Chester-le-Street -based charity is also currently recruiting for a number of support workers to join the experienced team at the farm.

Sonja Evans, Area Manager for Short Breaks, said: "Short breaks is an incredibly valuable service, not only for the individuals we support but also for their families.

"Demand for these services is increasing and we are always on the lookout for hard-working, dedicated people to join our team and deliver personalised care and support to autistic young people and adults, both at the farm and out in the community."

Anyone who would like to support NEAS's annual apple appeal can drop off their unwanted apples at New Warlands Farm between 3.45 and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Alternatively email ian.patterson@ne-as.org.uk or call 0191 371 3010 to arrange an alternative time.

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