DOZENS of people took advantage of the free festive spirit on offer at a town centre coffee shop on Christmas Day.

For the second year, Mangobean opened its doors to support less fortunate people and to offer them a warm welcome, a hot drink and some specially prepared food.

This year, the owners teamed up with Darlington restaurant owner Georgios Latousakis and other local businesses to ensure visitors enjoyed some festive cheer.

Manager Zak Ahmed also handed out ‘survival packs’ made up of essentials including toiletries.

"We feel it is really important to give something back to the community," he said. "Christmas is about family and fun but sadly, not everyone is in the position to enjoy it like everyone else.

"Opening the shop is not about religion, it's about showing people humanity and compassion. Not everyone is here because they are facing financial difficulties, some are here because they are lonely and simply want some company on Christmas Day."

Mr Latousakis, who prepared and cooked the food for the guests, added: "I was delighted to help out today, it is important to give people some cheer at this time of year. Maybe we will be able to do it more often throughout the year as well."

Among the people offering support to visitors was Councillor Sharifah Rahman who was there to help out.

The 18-year-old said: "At this time of year many people are having a good time but it is important to think about those people who are not as fortunate. Some people are struggling financially, some are vulnerable and some are simply lonely."

One of the business owners, Shuhel Ahmed added: "My father always taught me to remember those less fortunate than yourself and that is exactly what today is all about. If we helped just one person on Christmas Day it would be worthwhile but to help as many people as we have makes it even better for all the volunteers who have made it possible."