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Lake St. Louis teen follows in grandfather's footsteps by giving back to those in need

At her grandfather's funeral, Claire Corley learned he'd make fruit baskets for those in need every holiday season. Now, she's continuing his act of kindness.

LAKE ST LOUIS, Mo. — When they're growing up, some kids are just a blur of arms and legs.

But others are all heart.

Take 13-year-old Claire Corley, who likes nothing better than being near the water at her Lake St. Louis home even though sometimes she's got to do her geography homework.

"Geography isn't just land forms and water," she explained, "it's more about the culture."

The one thing Claire would like to do but can't anymore, is spend time with her grandfather.

"They had a very special relationship," said Claire's dad, Patrick Corley.

In October 2020, Daniel Corley died after a battle with COVID-19.

At the funeral, Claire learned something she didn't know.

Credit: Family photo

Every Christmas, her grandfather would go down to the Soulard Market and buy bushels of fruit to make gift baskets.

"Then on Christmas Eve," added Claire, "they'd take those fruits to people in their small town that they knew didn't have a lot of food."

"He always considered himself blessed, even though he didn't have two nickels to rub together," Patrick Corley told us.

Well, he may have been gone, but his light remained, as Claire's dad found out just weeks later.

"Claire said, 'I really know what I'd like for Christmas this year,'" Patrick recalled. "And we said what is that? 'I would really like, just like Papaw used to do, get our family together and build Christmas baskets and deliver them in secret to people in the community in need.'"

For the past two years just before the holidays, Claire has been like a college coach, recruiting.

"Family members, friends, people we that we could think of that knew him," said Claire.

The first year, they made 50 baskets. This past year, 500. And they were delivered to people in need all over the city, including those who use the food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul.

"It means that they weren't forgotten," said Karen Balakas of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. "That they didn't get the leftover from somebody else. Somebody really cared about them as an individual and a person."

We're never really gone if we stay alive in someone's heart.

"And if your dad was looking down at his granddaughter, what do you think he'd be thinking?" we asked Patrick.

He answered, "Oh, I think he couldn't be more proud of her."

One young lady helping to keep the grand in grandfather.

"It makes me feel really warm inside," said Claire smiling.