Real-life Bristol based Santa Claus works year round to create 500 charity shoeboxes

Melanie May | 16 December 2019 | News

An 80-year-old tenant at Brunelcare’s ABC Centre, an extra care housing site in Bristol has spent the year creating over 500 gift-filled shoeboxes to deliver to charities during the festive season.
Fran Clark starts work at the beginning of every January and works all year round. She began her role as Bristol’s Santa four years ago, after seeing an advert for the Shoebox Appeal in a church magazine.
Sourcing items from charity shops, car boot sales and her local Knit and Natter groups, she often spends around one hour each morning filling the boxes with her festive finds. She gets help from ABC Centre Manager, Danielle Morgan and other friends who assist in wrapping and finding gifts for her. Pavers, a shoe shop based in Bristol’s The Galleries, also gets involved, putting aside 15+ shoeboxes each week for Fran to collect on her weekly trip into the city by bus.
Fran has lived at Brunelcare’s ABC Centre for nine years, and receives support from the centre’s manager, Danielle, who provided her with a ‘workshop’ to craft her boxes in.
Fran 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 shoebox 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 items, 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, books and colouring pencils. The boxes cost Fran around £5 each to make and she uses her own money alongside charitable contributions to make the boxes. Charities then collect the shoe boxes from Brunelcare’s ABC Centre on a first-come-first served basis. The charities that usually collect boxes are homeless shelters and children’s charities from Bristol.