A group of local people are reaching out to spread Christmas joy via the Secret Santa for a Senior.
The initiative was started in 2016 to provide a little Christmas spirit to seniors in the region who may be alone through the holidays or dealing with various situations.
Co-organizer Sue Morrison explains their group canvasses to get enough donations to help fund the program, all hoping seniors in our area have a brighter holiday season.
“(The program is for) all long-term care, assisted living, low-income apartments and many seniors living in their own homes,” says Morrison.
“This program brings Christmas joy to some of our most vulnerable citizens in the form of a gift bag or Christmas hamper meal bag,” she adds. “Many of our seniors have lost their mates or have no family close or left or possibly have suffered a life altering event or situation. We hope to bring smiles to their faces and hope to their hearts.”
Morrison explains the project was started largely because of a seniors’ home closure that was very dear to the community’s heart.
“When the decision was made in 2016 to close the Berwyn lodge, Gail Sandboe and myself decided to reach out on social media to find people to donate gift bags to those seniors to make their Christmas extra special,” she says.
“We discovered while doing this that there are many seniors that would benefit from this program, so we continued with it. From 37 people in 2016 to over 1,200 in 2022.”
In order to fund the initiative, the group has an online auction from Nov. 15 to Dec. 1. They will also be accepting monetary donations that will be used to purchase gift items for the gift bags.
“We also accept gift cards to local grocery stores which we use to make Christmas hampers for some of our most vulnerable seniors,” says Morrison. “We gift all the long-term care residents along with all the assisted living and seniors living in senior apartments. We also have many community seniors on our list.”
Morrison says last year the group hosted a Pancakes with the Clauses. The event allowed seniors to join in so they could see children interacting with Santa.
“I believe it brought as much happiness to them as the children and this definitely helped to ease some of their loneliness at this somewhat difficult time of year,” says Morrison.
“We are looking for sponsorship for this event, and also for an event we’re hosting Dec. 8 in Grimshaw after the Santa Claus Parade. Again, we will have Santa and Mrs. Claus there for pictures and will be encouraging our seniors to attend this event.”
The initiative provides a little gift to seniors from throughout the Peace Region, including Manning, Peace River, Hines Creek and everywhere in-between. For the time being, the group is canvassing for items for their online auction to help provide items for gift bags, cash or gift card donations and gift cards to the Freson Brothers Store or Co-op Store. If you would like to help donate to the cause, please call Morrison at the number provided at the end of this article.
“We are hoping to meet or surpass our $10,000 from last year,” says Morrison of the auction.
“The funds will be used to purchase items for our gift bags and also for our hot meal bags. Our hot meal hamper bags include a rotisserie chicken or small ham along with all the trimmings and homemade baking for desserts.”
To participate in the auction, if you would like to donate cash, or have some time you would be able to volunteer to help coordinate the events, you can visit the group’s Facebook page Secret Santa for a Senior Auction or contact Morrison at (780) 835-1654. In the community, people can contact Morrison, Gail Sandboe, Lucy Hannah, or Casey Szmata.
“Donation arrangements can be made with any of us, and we have drop off locations in all the areas,” she says.
“When I deliver gifts, I always say now I know why Santa is so jolly. There is nothing in this world as wonderful as seeing tired eyes light up and a smile of joy on their beautiful faces.”
By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 18, 2023 at 10:55