Working all year round to make shoe boxes for those in need, Fran Clark is Brunelcare’s real-life Santa Claus.

80 year old Fran has made over 500 shoe boxes this year alone, and she shows no signs of slowing down.

Fran started making gift-filled boxes four years ago after seeing an advert for the shoebox appeal in a church magazine. Danielle Morgan, manager of our ABC Centre, gave Fran her very own ‘workshop’ to craft the boxes, and she spends around one hour each morning wrapping them in Christmas paper and filling them with treats.

Fran said: “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.”

Each box contains a range of gifts, but Fran believes soap, flannels, toothbrushes and toothpaste should be the main essentials. Men and women often receive clothes, a pack of cards, and dominoes as an extra treat, and children are gifted with toys, books, and colouring pencils. Fran also attends two Knit and Natter groups, where they make hats, scarves, gloves, and mittens for the boxes.

Pavers, a shoe shop based in the Galleries, have also gotten involved in the festivities, keeping shoe boxes aside for Fran to collect. She collects 15 boxes each week, and covers them in wrapping paper to make them look festive.

Fran said: “I really appreciate their help, I usually collect about 15 empty shoe boxes each week. They’ve got to know me really well in there now!”

Fran has lived at our ABC Centre for nine years. She initially felt lonely after moving away from her family, but the help she has received with her shoe box appeal has given her a new purpose.

Fran said: “My son used to live opposite me, so him and my grandchildren used to come over every hour, but once I moved they couldn’t visit me as often. I initially felt lonely, but then I saw an advertisement for 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. Danielle even took me to the homeless shelter in Bedminster because I wanted to visit and now the other tenants get involved too.”

Over Christmas the boxes will be given to a number of charities, including orphanages and homeless shelters. Fran will start working on her next batch of boxes in the new year.

Fran: “I make them all year round. As soon as Christmas is over I start again, I just really enjoy helping people.”

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