A Worthing woman who fell victim to a bank card fraudster has thanked the community for ‘putting a smile back into my heart’ after they donated dozens of Christmas gifts.
After Michael and Mavis Shoesmith, who are 77 and 81 respectively, had £1,569.23 stolen by their neighbour, Giovanna Chirico, a group of Worthing and Lancing residents banded together to restore their faith in society.
Members of the Facebook group Worthing Now and Then have filled a hamper, codenamed Operation M&M, with dozens of gifts such as food vouchers, wine, care services, electrical services, hot water bottles, cheese and crackers.
Mavis said the gesture had transformed her mood after the ordeal had left her feeling ‘depressed and deflated’.
“I can’t believe it, I was amazed,” she said.
“I felt so down and awful, but what these people have done is lovely. They have put a smile back into my heart – I can’t tell you what they have done to my spirit.”
The Shoesmith’s story was shared on the Facebook group after Chirico was sentenced last Monday.
One of the group’s members, 26-year-old Lauren Ayres, from Mash Barn in Lancing, galvanised 35 other residents to get behind the couple.
“I think it’s important to show them that there are good, trustworthy people in the community,” said Lauren.
“Hopefully this restores their faith back into people, and they can trust again. The community has shown that together we can bring something positive out of something negative.
“Every community has good and bad, but right now, doing this, all the bad is pushed aside.”
Chirico received a 26-week suspended jail sentence after being found guilty of linking two of the Shoesmith’s bank cards to her Paypal account.
A five year restraining order was also imposed, after Mavis’ fear of bumping into Chirico in the street left her scared to leave the house.
Read more on the Chirico trial here: Worthing woman steals over £1,500 from vulnerable married couple