Fran Clark, an 80-year-old from Hengrove, Bristol, first started filling boxes with gifts four years ago after spotting an advert in a church magazine appealing for donations.
The elderly lady had been feeling lonely at the time, having recently moved into Brunelcare’s ABC Centre care home away from her family.
“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,” the mother-of-one said.
“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.”
Fran devotes an hour every day to making and wrapping the boxes, with each one containing toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and flannels.
In addition to their essential toiletries, adults receive clothes, dominoes and playing cards, while children are given toys, books, colouring pencils and dolls.
The real-life “Mother Christmas” sources the items for her shoeboxes in charity shops and from local groups, with each box costing her around £5 to make.
While Fran uses her own money to pay for the boxes, she also receives charitable contributions to keep the festive initiative going.
Friends and workers at her care home also help her source items and wrap each box.
Many of the shoeboxes are donated by Pavers, a shoe shop situated in The Galleries shopping mall in Bristol.
Staff at the store put more than 15 shoeboxes aside for Fran every week, which she collects when she ventures into the city by bus on a weekly basis.
“Fran comes in regularly to collect shoeboxes and she always brightens up the day letting us know they’re being used for a good cause!” said Pavers store manager William Jacob.
Charities come to Fran’s care home to collect the boxes she has made.
They are then distributed to people in need at homeless shelters and by children’s organisations in the region.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies