Theft of Christmas charity

Pearl Abbott who had a charity collection box stolen from outside her house.  (111219M3a)
Pearl Abbott who had a charity collection box stolen from outside her house. (111219M3a)

A RIPON grandmother with a “heart of gold” has been forced to stop her Christmas charity collections after being targeted by heartless theives.

Pearl Abbott has been decorating her home on Quarry Moor Lane for Christmas for nearly 20 years, starting when her grandchildren were young, and has continued the tradition to entertain other children in the city.

Mrs Abbott also raises money for local charities through her decorations by collecting donations from visitors who come to admire her display.

Initially Mrs Abbott collected goodwill contributions in a bucket left in the front garden. But last year hard hearted thieves targeted the cash. They took the bucket of loose change from Mrs Abbott’s front garden and emptied it of cash before cheekily returning an empty bucket.

Determined to carry on collecting, this year, Mrs Abbott and her family decided to get tougher by replacing the collection bucket with a safe, screwed onto a heavy wooden sleeper.

But by the morning of Sunday, December 11 the box had disappeared, and although whoever stole the box will only have got away with around £5 they have stopped Mrs Abbott collecting for the rest of the month.

The thieves took money left by children and hard-pressed pensioners, she said.

“I have had a little boy give 10p out of his pocket money, and a pensioner give 50p, and once I even went into the garden to find somebody had left some money in an empty flower pot,” Mrs Abbott said.

“We emptied the box on Saturday night so there wouldn’t be much money there, but because they took the box it means there’s nowhere for people to leave donations now.”

However, Mrs Abbott’s grand-daughter Joanne, 19, said she was disgusted with the criminals, and has stepped in to save her grandmother’s Christmas collection with the help of her boss and friends and Ripon’s branch of Specsavers.

“I just don’t know who would do something like that. When my family heard the box had been stolen we were disgusted for my grandma’s sake.

“She’s got a heart of gold, and she’s been doing this for years.

“I posted something on my Facebook wall, and my friends at work took it upon themselves to do something about it.”

The branch will be accepting donations on Mrs Abbott’s behalf, and staff have put a collection bucket in the store with a sign explaining that donations will go to Pearl Abbott’s charity collection.

Well-wishers who have enjoyed the festive lights can leave a donation for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Ripon’s Middle of the Road group, which provides social activies and physiotherapy for disabled people in and around the city, at Specsavers store on Fishergate, Ripon.

Mrs Abbott said her festive lights have raised about £60 so far this year.