Sue Loram with a knitted blanket for Maria of Vale Fuzeiros

A lovely Christmas with “Shoebox Sue”

Sue Loram is the coordinator of the annual Christmas “Shoeboxes for the Elderly” project

After this Christmas, I will never look at a shoebox the same way again. And, I will have to restrain myself from always calling my friend “Shoebox Sue”.

You see, this friend of mine, Sue Loram of Vale Fuzeiros, near São Bartolomeu de Messines, has an obsession with shoeboxes. Not because she aspires to be the owner of footwear by Prada, Louis Vuitton, or Chanel. Sue’s shoeboxes contain lovely gifts for needy people who live in the Silves/Messines area. Hence her nickname, “Shoebox Sue”.

Sue Loram gives shoebox to Beatrice. She and her granddaughter Petra enjoy knitted gifts as well

Sue is a volunteer who devotes many hours working for Castelo de Sonhos, a donor-funded social service agency based in Silves. Since 1997, Castelo de Sonhos has provided a wide range of programs to help the poor and underprivileged of Silves and the surrounding area. Besides helping with the food bank and various family aid programs, Sue is the coordinator of the annual Christmas “Shoeboxes for the Elderly” project.

Manuel of Amorosa receives shoebox

This is the 19th year of the project, and received a record number of donations, exceeding 300 boxes. The special shoeboxes contain gifts such as toiletries, a warm hat, a facecloth, a sewing kit, warm socks, a scarf, biscuits, canned goods, a flashlight, warm gloves, a hot water bottle, chocolates, jam or preserves, a small decoration, etc.

Maria in her Vale Fuzeiros doorway

This week, my wife and I accompanied Sue on some shoebox deliveries. We were greeted lovingly by seniors in their humble abodes. It really brightened up their day, and our day, as they chatted away with us. I am envious of Sue’s fluent Portuguese (I am working on it but making only slow progress). The happiness we were spreading could be understood in any language.

Maria reads the card on her shoebox

Sue praises the many individuals and groups who donate, collect, and distribute the boxes in time for Christmas. She thanks all the generous individuals who curated and donated shoeboxes. Special thanks to the Silves Rotary Club, Kathleen Kuys and friends, Nada Louw and the Moonlighters of Portimão, the Nobel School, and Annemarie Webster with the DEKA German speaking Lutheran Church in Carvoeiro.

Staff at Centro de Apoio Familiar e de Aconselhamento Parental ready to distribute gifts

Collection points; Water Dog Pub in Armação de Pêra, The Food Company in Guia (who also gave food and chocolates), Crafteria, in Sesmarias. Extra special thanks to Sheena Rawcliffe and her wonderful knitters for making beautiful blankets, shawls, hats and socks.

A carful of shoeboxes acting as Santa’s sleigh

I would suggest to any of you readers who wants to supercharge their Christmas spirit that they curate their own shoebox for the elderly, perhaps next year, which will be the project’s 20th. Of course, before that, there will be the “back to school” shoeboxes for children, yet another Castelo de Sonhos project!

Text and Photos: ERIC ROTH

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Eric Roth is a lifelong photojournalist who has recently emigrated from Boston, USA to the Algarve. He loves nature and wildlife. 926 742 687 | [email protected]