THE owner of an airline has given £250 Waitrose and John Lewis vouchers to 1,000 frontline healthcare staff.

EasyJet owner Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou made the donation through his charity organisation, The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation.

The vouchers were given to British Red Cross staff in the charity’s divisions across the country, including several in Sussex.

One of these was Sophie Challis, service coordinator at the Home from Hospital and Carers Crisis Response Service in Hove.

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She said: “We work very closely with vulnerable adults and their carers.

“Throughout Covid-19 we have continued to provide a service to those living alone and those with caring responsibilities.

“We have managed to collect essential items, medication, visit people from a distance, and listen when people needed it most.

“This thoughtful donation has gone a long way to making me and my team feel valued and rewarded at a very unnerving time.”

Sharon Cutler, a senior service support assistant at the Red Cross’s Crawley mobility aids services, also benefitted.

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She said: “We all do this job because we want to help others, but to receive this wonderful surprise gift and be recognised for the small part we are playing in getting us all through this pandemic was incredibly humbling.”

Explaining the donation, Sir Stelios said it was clear that “helping the helpers is by far the best route forward”.

He hoped to be able to “remove fears, anxieties and uncertainties from their personal lives - leaving them able to focus on the sterling service they perform so well for their fellow human beings”.

British Red Cross chief executive Michael Adamson expressed his gratitude, on behalf of the charity, for Sir Stelios’s donation.

He said: “ I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to you and your foundation for your exceptional donation of £250,000 to the British Red Cross during this unprecedented time.

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“We are humbled by your gift made towards acknowledging and rewarding the dedication of the British Red Cross staff who are working on the frontline of the Covid-19 response.”

During the coronavirus crisis, Sir Stelios had already donated £680,000 to causes benefitting frontline staff through The Stelios Philanthropic Foundation.

The organisation’s mission statement is to “support a diverse range of charitable activities, primarily in places where the founder (Sir Stelios) has lived and worked”. This includes causes in the UK, Greece, Cyprus and Monaco.