05/12/2018 06:00 GMT | Updated 05/12/2018 06:00 GMT

This 96-Year-Old Got 458 Christmas Cards Last Year – Could You Send One To Combat Loneliness?

HumanKind Advent Calendar 2018: He was moved to tears by the act of kindness.

HuffPost: HumanKind brings you an advent calendar of kindness, celebrating good deeds and the people doing them, in order to inspire and bring hope this festive season. Find out more about the series, and uncover new stories daily here.

Last Christmas, 458 cards arrived through Harry Winters’ letterbox. They were from strangers, young and old, and the act of kindness and knowledge that so many were thinking of him moved the 96-year-old veteran to tears.

Harry was finding it difficult to get out and about and was feel lonely. When he shared his feelings with his home helper Jules, he took to social media and asked people to send cards to cheer Harry up. The response was more than he could have hoped for. “To see Harry’s face light up with each new delivery was truly heartwarming,” Jules said.

“I just couldn’t believe that so many people would be so interested in we old retirees,” said Harry, who lives in London with his wife of 60 years. “It made me very, very happy over Christmas. Even young children in schools sent me personal messages, which brought tears to my eyes.”

[Read more: HuffPost’s kindness advent calendar will inspire you this Christmas – actor Michael Sheen explains why it’s so important]

Close To Hand
Harry Winters

This year Harry is backing a campaign encouraging people across the UK to deliver one extra Christmas card this year to someone they think is lonely. He said: “I think if people who know some lonely people in the world can send them Christmas cards, to brighten up their days, it would make quite a difference.”

Harry is a proud supporter of the One More Card campaign, which was launched last year by 35-year-old Lindsey Nathan. It’s a simple idea: if you have some Christmas cards left over, why not write one for someone who lives nearby; someone who might be lonely? The aim is to create meaningful connections which is why cards are hand-delivered, not popped in the post. (Lindsey is asking people to tweet using #OneMoreCard once they’ve given their Christmas card away.)

A shocking 873,000 older people aren’t contacted by anyone at Christmas, according to Age UK. This statistic is something Lindsey, a mum-of-two from Kent, hopes to change. “People just don’t live close by to their families nowadays,” she said. “And from my perspective, communities aren’t as connected as they used to be, so we don’t necessarily know our neighbours and we can’t rely on people to be there to help when we need it.”

Supplied
Lindsey Nathan

Lindsey runs a start-up called Close To Hand, an online platform allowing older people or their relatives to connect with local people who can pop in and provide them with home help and companionship. Locals can either do this on a voluntary or paid basis.

This year, Lindsey has designed a black and white card which can be printed out and coloured in by school children. “We’re encouraging them to then go with their families and hand-deliver those cards to an older person in their community who they think might be lonely,” she said.

So far over 3,000 cards have gone out across Kent and Sussex. Lindsey, who has two young daughters herself aged four and six, is now calling upon “grown-ups” to get involved. “Write a card, keep it with you and go and hand-deliver it to someone,” she said. “Make that meaningful connection with someone who lives close by, but who you don’t necessarily know.”

One More Card
Some of the cards sent out already by children.

Lindsey said a lot of adults she speaks to admit they don’t know anyone who is lonely, but when she asks the same question to children, automatically their hands go up in the air.

“Nearly all of the children I’ve spoken to have been able to think of one [lonely person],” she explained. “I think children are so much more observant than we are and empathetic. They notice things that we don’t and they’re always very quick to share a smile or start a conversation.”

HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook. You can also nominate those who deserve to be shouted about by filling in this form or emailing natasha.hinde@huffpost.com.