BUSINESSES and shop owners are rallying round to help the Echo’s Christmas Toy Appeal.

Collection bins have appeared across the county in shops, supermarkets and toy stores, and supporters are hoping that this year’s appeal will be bigger and better than before.

Last year more than £3,300 was raised and hundreds of new toys donated by readers to underprivileged children across Dorset to open on Christmas Day.

Businesses have also been joining in the Echo’s 20 for 2012 initiative, where companies sign up to donate £100 each to the appeal, so that we can ensure that every child who has registered will receive a present.

One of the first to donate £100 was Fish ‘n’ Fritz of Market Street, Weymouth, which has supported the appeal for many years.

Owner Paul Hay said that the business was always looking at ways to get involved and help the community.

He said: “Christmas is a special time for families and children and it is a small donation we can give to make their day special.

“We wanted to give back to the community, who have given us so much.”

He added: “It’s only a small contribution but it’s to say to them that there’s someone out there who cares about them.

“I would say to other businesses to get on board for the community.

“No matter how big or small the donation, just dig deep and support the community and make someone’s Christmas extra special.”

All the gifts collected will go to children who may have suffered neglect, abuse, be living in refuges with their mothers or in the care of families who simply cannot afford to buy them something special for Christmas.

Each year the Echo office in Weymouth has been full of sacks of presents before social workers took them to give to needy children on Christmas Day.

Both Echo offices in Weymouth and Dorchester are accepting donations.