ONE of Andover’s most public-spirited residents – who helped to send Christmas presents to thousands of disadvantaged children – has died aged 85.

Betty Balcombe was especially well-known in the Andover, Monxton and Weyhill communities for her charity work.

She helped raise thousands of pounds and supported people both locally and abroad. She was given a Pride of Andover Award, chosen as a Test Valley Community Champion and was a runner-up in BBC South Community Awards.

Betty’s early life was a challenge. She was born in Bristol in 1928 and spent her early years in a children’s home and in hospital, leaving her with a lifetime of mobility problems.

Her childhood experiences influenced her career and her life in general.

At the end of the war she was an auxiliary nurse. Later she fostered many babies and young children. Before her retirement, Betty was a resident warden in an almshouse in Salisbury.

When she lived in Salisbury, she was a district councillor and championed the cause of homeless people.

In the Andover area, she was a founder member of the Weyfayre Social Club in Weyhill, which helps older people feel less isolated by organising regular get-togethers, holidays and outings.

She was also a board member with Testway Housing and president of Testway Transform, the charitable arm of the social housing company.

One of the things she is most well-known for is being the “queen” of the Christmas shoebox.

For years she supported, and encouraged others to support, the Samaritans’ Shoebox appeal, which gives a shoebox full of donated goodies to children in poor countries at Christmas.

Betty, a great-grandmother, learned to use a computer and smartphone so she could text her grandchildren.

Her tireless companion in most of her community ventures was her partner, Charlie Wells. In her spare time she enjoyed tapestry, music and football.

Betty’s funeral will be at Weyhill Church on Wednesday at 2.30pm.