(TMU) — A grandmother in the U.K. has been given the affectionate name of “Mother Christmas” after it was revealed that the 80-year-old woman had spent the entire year preparing 500 shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts for the needy.
Fran Clark of Hengrove, Bristol, spends an hour every day making and wrapping the gift-filled boxes so that they can brighten the holidays for people in need, Metro reported.
The elderly woman, who is now considered something of a national treasure, has been preparing the treasure boxes for four years now as a means to cope with the loneliness of living in senior housing, far from her family. She said:
“I make them all year round. As soon as Christmas is over I start again, I just really enjoy helping people.”
Fran now feels a strong sense of purpose thanks to the project, which consumes most of her year—with the exception of a few weeks after the Christmas holidays, during which she takes a break from the endeavor.
The grandmother of four, who also has one great-grandchild, explained:
“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.”
The boxes are filled with items that she collects from charities and local groups.
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With an eye toward the practical rather than the purely ephemeral, Fran fills the boxes with items that are sure to be appreciated: each box contains essential toiletries such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and towels. Items such as scissors, tape, and lotion also make their way into the gift boxes.
Boxes for adults also typically contain such useful gifts as clothing, playing cards, dominoes, and ballpoint pens while boxes for children contain books, crayons, colored pencils, dolls, and various toys.
Each gift costs her roughly £5 to make, or just under $7 USD. Fran pays for the boxes largely out of her own pocket, but charitable contributions have also helped her project continue. She also receives help preparing the boxes and collecting items from her friends and from helpful workers at the care home.
In a blog post by her care center, she explained:
“I usually come up and work on them for about an hour or so, but I have other people who come to help me. People will come and help with wrapping, or go to car boot sales for me and bring back gifts for the boxes. They’re very good to me.”
Meanwhile, the shoeboxes themselves are given to Fran by local shoe store Pavers. She collects about 15 of the boxes each week during her weekly bus trips into Bristol.
Store manager William Jacob explained:
“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!”
When she is done preparing the boxes, they are then given to local homeless shelters and social service organizations that work with area youth.
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