A big-hearted grandmother has been dubbed a real-life ‘Mother Christmas’ after spending all year preparing filling 500 shoeboxes full of presents to give to the needy.
Fran Clark, 80, devotes an hour each day to making and wrapping the charity donations so they can be delivered in time for Christmas – then starts all over again in January.
Generous Fran started the project because she felt lonely after leaving her family to move to a care home – but now feels like she has a new purpose.
She made her first box four years ago after seeing an advert for an appeal in a church magazine.
Mother-of-two Fran, from Hengrove, Bristol, then started sourcing items from charity shops and local groups – and now makes hundreds each year.
She said: “My son used to live opposite me, so him and my grandchildren used to come over every day, but once I moved they couldn’t visit me as often.
“I initially felt lonely, but then I saw an advertisement about a shoe box appeal in a church magazine and I thought it was a great idea.
“I was given a room upstairs to work on the shoe boxes, and it has really helped me keep busy.”
Each box contains a variety of different treats with soap, flannels, toothpaste and a toothbrush being the main essentials.
Men and women often receive clothes, dominoes and a pack of cards alongside their toiletries, while children are gifted with toys, dolls, books and colouring pencils.
The donations cost Fran around £5 each to make and she uses her own money alongside charitable contributions.
Friends and workers at her care home often help her to source presents and wrap the boxes.
Many of the actual shoeboxes are donated by Pavers, a shoe shop based in The Galleries, Bristol.
Helpful staff put aside more than 15 each week for Fran to collect on her weekly trip into the city by bus.
Store manager William Jacob said: “Fran comes in regularly to collect shoe boxes and she always brightens up the day letting us know they’re being used for a good cause!”
Charities collect the completed donations from Brunelcare’s ABC Centre – where Fran lives – on a first come, first served basis.
The boxes are then distributed to homeless shelters and children’s organisations in the Bristol area.