URGENT donations are being sought for a fund to help Cumbrians struggling to keep warm this winter.

The call comes after cold weather was revealed as a prime cause for more than 300 preventable deaths in Cumbria a year – often worsened by living in older or isolated rural homes.

In the worst winters, this figure has risen to 500.

The Winter Warmth Appeal, run by Cumbria Community Foundation, ensures vulnerable older people, who often choose between heating and eating, can heat their homes and remain safe and well during the colder months.

Last year, more than 1,000 older Cumbrians were helped to stay warm and well through the cold winter months thanks to the generosity of locals who donated £150,000 to the Winter Warmth Appeal.

Cumbria Community Foundation works in partnership with Age UK across Cumbria to reach the most vulnerable people in the county.

Of the 500 grants awarded to households so far this winter, half live alone and, due to increased demand, the foundation is desperately in need of funds to support more older people, as soon as possible.

Older people are more likely to live in poorly insulated, cold homes and become seriously ill or even die during the winter.

To keep warm, they must turn their heating up, but with a sharp hike in energy prices, many pensioners cannot afford to do so. Many suffer in silence during the coldest months, often hidden from view.

Annalee Holliday, grants and donor services and communications officer from Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “During the last ten years, the Winter Warmth Appeal has raised £1,000,000 – we know Cumbrians are well known for their community spirit.

“We are calling on Cumbria’s warm generosity again to help us raise even more money this year, by doubling their donation during our match funding challenge week.

“The match funders have pledged a total of £57,000 to the ‘Winter Warmth Match Funding Challenge’ meaning that donations made during that time will be worth £114,000.” To make a donation, visit cumbriafoundation.org/winter-warmth-fund or visit www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/winter-warmth-appeal, or call 01900 825760 for more details.