IT started out as a simple gesture to reach out, help others and be more positive after the death of Caroline Flack.

But Alana Maguire says she still cannot believe the response after making the decision to open up her pub for a free cuppa and a chat every Thursday for anyone who is feeling down or wants to get something off their chest.

The former Great Sankey High student, who runs The Hawthorne in Orford, advertised the new weekly session on Facebook where it got 1,000 likes and more than 650 shares.

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Alana has also been inundated with donations of tea, coffee and biscuits.

In her post, the 29-year-old said: “I am not qualified in any way to give advice. However I have two ears, a smile and a big lovely dog waiting for anyone who needs cheering up.”

Following the overwhelming response, Alana will be running the session from 8am to 11am at the Orford Lane pub every Thursday.

Animal lovers are also welcome to meet Alana’s husky Luna.

She added: “The first session was lovely. It’s not meant to be everyone sitting around in a circle and sharing their problems..

“It’s more about being around people and just having a chat and a bit of a giggle so that’s pretty much what we did.

“We talked about all kind of things while having a biscuit and a brew and to be honest it brightened my day as much as anyone else’s.”

Anyone is welcome to attend on Thursday mornings without appointment where you can help yourself to the likes of Jaffa Cakes and Kit Kats.

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Alana, who grew up in Great Sankey, was also inspired to start offering a cuppa and a listening ear by the ‘be kind’ social media movement in the wake of former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack’s death.

It is in response to the enormous media scrutiny and negative coverage the 40-year-old was facing when she decided to take her own life on February 15.

Alana said: “It’s not just for people who are suffering. It can be for anyone who fancies a bit of company before they start the day.

“The response has been fantastic. I’ve struggled with mental health in the past. Thankfully I’ve been fine for a while.

“But, in the past, things have happened to me and my friends have really picked me up. The power of people coming together is underestimated.

“Low mood can be dangerous and it really can just take a smile or a chat or a bit of banter to lift you up or make you forget sometimes.

“Then with all the stuff with Caroline Flack, I could really relate with what she was going through. Things like that sparked it off but I was not expecting that response.”

Twelve people came to the first session.

Alana, who has run The Hawthorne for just under a year and is also a professional singer, added: “A trained counsellor came by to see if anyone needed any professional advice and I thought that was a really nice touch so she’s going to be bobbing in every other week we do it just to check if anyone needs more help.

“It was one of those posts on Facebook that had so many comments but not one of them was negative and that was just gorgeous to see.

“It’s made me really proud of the people around me, and the pub. I did my best to keep up with all the messages and I think I’ve replied to everyone now.

“I think loads of people want to do stuff like this but they wouldn’t really know where to start. I’m lucky that I’ve got this building in such a nice community that enables me to do it.”