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Biddenden High Street fire families receive Christmas gifts

Children who lost their Christmas presents when fire ripped through their homes have been inundated with gifts.

An appeal started by Clare Offen who runs The House Meadow, a wedding venue in Biddenden, has seen sackfuls of toys and clothes being donated by wellwishers.

Clare said: "We've received dozens and dozens of gifts from Build-A-Bears to Hot Wheels cars that we have wrapped up to make sure the children get something nice under the tree.

Clare Offen with some of the Christmas presents that have been received (6164177)
Clare Offen with some of the Christmas presents that have been received (6164177)

The fire broke out in the early hours of Monday morning above hairdressers Waltz International and Biddenden Chiropractic in the village's high street.

It spread through to neighbouring properties leaving three families homeless and seven children without Christmas presents.

Clare, who also set up a GoFundMe page with the aim of raising £1,000 for the families, says she has been overwhelmed as money poured in and the amount raised now stands at nearly £11,000.

The 33-year-old said: "People have been amazing and the Biddenden community has shown its strength. We are getting donations from Ashford too and the support has taken me completely by surprise.

A barnful of gifts and donations (6164179)
A barnful of gifts and donations (6164179)
Firefighters tackle the blaze in Biddenden High Street (6164170)
Firefighters tackle the blaze in Biddenden High Street (6164170)

Chiropractors Tom Claykens and his wife Becky, who have two young children, were lucky to escape the inferno which began beneath their top floor flat and Clare has attributed all the support they have received to the kind of people they are.

She said: "Tom and Becky only moved to Biddenden 18 months ago but they have really got involved in the community from organising group walks to sponsoring the kit for the local football team and a lot of people know them."

Mum-of-three Clare said that helping out was the natural thing to do and added that a small chimney fire at her own home, when she and her family were forced to move out for a few weeks, had given her the tiniest inkling of what the displaced families were feeling.

The families have been offered free meals at Gram Spice in Biddenden and Tenterden garden centre restaurant, while companies have made donations including John Page Trailers in Biddenden. The Rare Breeds Centre in Woodchurch has offered the families free admission to the attraction.

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