This year, Santa is not just for kids.
Home Instead Senior Care is partnering with stores such as the Guildwood Valumart, for the Be a Santa For a Senior program.
The goal is to provide seniors with presents at Christmas as a tangible sign the community is thinking of them.
“This program started five years [ago] and is community-based,” says Janise Smith, head co-ordinator. “It was created so that the elderly in our community can see that they’re not forgotten and that we care.”
The program is quite simple.
At participating stores are Christmas trees, where people can write down on paper ornaments the names of elderly people they know and what that person would like to receive.
The items on the ornaments can then be purchased by anyone and left at a drop box in the store. Then on Christmas Day, people like Smith distribute them to the elderly with, of course, the aid of Santa.
“Sometimes seniors can feel alone during this time of year,” says Candace Pratt, a long-time participant in the program. “Christmas can either be the most wonderful time or the loneliest time.”
This is why a letter-writing campaign has also been added to the program.
“Many people know of neighbours who have had a bad year and have done so much in the neighbourhood,” Smith says. “That’s why we need people to write in and share with us, or else we won’t know.”
The letter-writing campaign works in much the same way. Anyone can email a letter to [email protected] and the appropriate information will be posted on ornaments at participating stores so every senior can share in holiday cheer.
“The letter-writing campaign came about because we wanted to reach seniors that are isolated, people who don’t have family or their family has moved away,” Smith says. “People who you don’t see very much but remember being involved in the community.”
Smith says many seniors have contributed so much to society as we know it today.
“Especially for immigrants, they were the ones that got the ball rolling,” she says. “They came here and they’re the reason why we’re able to keep moving the generations forward.”
When Pratt first became involved with the program she had no idea of its magnitude.
“I was working at Livingstone [retirement home], at the time and Janise called me about the program but I didn’t think much of it,” Pratt says.
“We had about a 100 residents there and when she said she was coming in to bring presents for everybody I thought it might be pencils or something. But when she walked in with these huge boxes, I thought ‘This is unbelievable.’ ”
According to Pratt this program is very important, not only for seniors but for everyone involved.
“Around Christmas, we all want to feel like a kid. This time of year can either be the most wonderful or the loneliest,” she says.
“So often when we think of Christmas we think of children, but everyone wants a Christmas,” she says. “I remember coming into the home with all of these boxes.”
“Santa was there giving out gifts and everyone was so happy.”
The most wonderful thing to Smith was the reactions.
“I can’t forget it because it’s such joy. It’s all about the community.”