By Trevor Suffield
Dec. 11, 2008
A West Broadway-based home care business is helping provide a little extra Christmas cheer and companionship to local seniors this holiday season.
Julie Donaldson, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, is organizing the Be a Santa to a Senior program that will see less fortunate seniors receive gifts this Christmas.
Donaldson said the program is a good compliment to the other services her company provides and the timing of it couldn’t be better.
“We really see the need of the companionship aspect of the Be a Santa program more than anything,” she said, adding that many seniors feel particularly lonely during the holiday season.
Donaldson started her HISC franchise last September. It provides in-home, non-medical services to seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The list of services provided includes companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping and transportation to and from medical appointments.
The Be a Santa program was originally launched by HISC’s parent company five years ago. Donaldson said she considered initiating the program in Winnipeg last year but felt her business didn’t have the resources in place to do so at the time.
Last year the program delivered more than 400,000 gifts to seniors throughout North America. More than 26,000 volunteers took part in the program.
“The seniors are asked if they want to be part of the program and what they really need,” she said.
“A lot of these are practical things like clothing and slippers, socks, radios for people who live in personal care homes.”
Donaldson said she initially approached a number of local retailers about becoming involved in the program, but didn’t get a very favourable response. As a result, she contacted businesses, seniors homes and churches that her company had previously dealt with.
Age and Opportunity, which provides services to individuals 55-and-older, has been helping to identify seniors who might not have anyone to celebrate with during the holiday season.
Stacy Miller, manager of community services at Age and Opportunity, said the agency’s friendly visiting program targets seniors who are isolated in the community and is a good fit with the Santa program.
“We match up volunteers that provide regular visits to them, and a lot of those individuals are the ones we’re approaching to be in the Be a Santa program,” she said.
A pair of local schools are pitching in to help with the program. St. Paul’s High School will host a gift-wrapping party on Dec. 15 while students at Chapman Elementary School students are providing handmade cards for each gift.
Kim Burnette, who teaches grades five and six at Chapman, said the whole school is involved in the project and will provide more than 100 cards.
“Many of the kids have been saying in the cards happy holidays, enjoy the season or thinking of you,” said Burnette, adding their efforts have helped make students realize that not everyone gets to celebrate Christmas.
Lindsay Chesley, who is in Burnette’s Grade 6 class, said she has really enjoyed working on the cards.
“I usually try to say happy holidays on mine, just in case they don’t celebrate Christmas,” she said.
Added classmate, Sean Laing: “It’s fun because we get so many special opportunities and it’s nice to give back.”
HISC volunteers will begin delivering gifts on Dec. 15. For more information visit www.beasantatoasenior.com.