For many, this time of year is filled with holiday cheer. Friends, family and loved ones come together to celebrate the season, putting smiles on the faces they care about most.
For others, the holidays can be a reminder of just how lonely and isolated they are. It’s with these people in mind that businesses and volunteers take to the streets to dedicate their time and effort to make the holiday season special for everyone.
The Be a Santa for a Senior Program, run all over the world by Home Instead Senior Care, works to spread holiday cheer to needy and isolated seniors in their communities.
Greg Bechard, of Home Instead Senior Care, says without programs like this many seniors would be forgotten at Christmas. He says it’s easy to see how important it is to them when the gifts are delivered and presented in their homes.
“It’s touching,” he said. “It will put a lump in your throat. The real appreciation is that someone has taken the time to think about them during this busy time. It’s a very emotional experience for everyone involved in the program.”
The material gifts themselves, Bechard said, come in a distant second to the fact that for maybe just one day, the person who received it was remembered. He says most of the gift requests are simple items like gloves or deodorant.
“It’s unfortunate we don’t think about this all year,” he said. “But it’s nice to give back and share a small piece.”
And share a small piece they do. Working with various retailers and non-profit community organizations across the country, regional lists are composed of seniors in need. These seniors could be in financial distress, isolated from their families or have no family at all.
With the help of various organizations, these seniors send in gift requests. The requests are, in turn, displayed on Christmas trees as ornaments — each personalized — at participating retail locations. Shoppers can then pick up an ornament and purchase the gift request. The gift is sent to a “wrapping party,” where it is prepared.
Avalon Woods Health Club in Etobicoke, Ont., is just one of the retail locations displaying the ornaments. Owner Cleo Chmielinski says the program has received a great reception among members. In fact, she even hosts an annual wrapping party at the club for volunteers.
To her, a program like Be a Santa for a Senior is extremely important for the community as a whole.
“It’s unfortunate that seniors are often forgotten about,” she told Metro, “especially when they’ve done so much for our communities.”
This year, Bechard estimates there’s between 5,000 — 6,000 gifts ready for wrapping in Toronto alone. Additionally, everyone who submitted a gift request will receive what they asked for. If you’d like to find a way to help — whether by buying a gift or attending a wrapping party, visit the program’s website at beasantatoasenior.ca. Once your there, enter your postal code for the nearest retail outlet/office.