The holiday season should be a time of joy with your loved ones. But for some, that isn’t the case. Often, Christmas is geared toward children and families, and those who are on their own tend to get left out, says John Stuck of Home Instead Senior Care, home to the Be A Santa To A Senior program.
“I hope that seniors get to be at the top of that list during the holidays because they should be,” Stuck says. “There are so many people out there who deserve to get something, and it just means so much to them.”
Over the course of a month, Be A Santa To A Senior collects donated gifts and provides them to those who might not have close family, are on a fixed income, or both. Connecting with nearly 40 different senior communities around Minneapolis and the western suburbs, the program helps seniors receive a bit of Christmas cheer.
The donations come from the Be A Santa To A Senior Christmas trees located at various businesses around the metro. Decorated with written wishes from seniors in need, people are able to pick a wish off the tree, purchase the desired gift and then return that gift to the same location. The gifts are then picked up and taken directly to the seniors for the holidays.
With the ability to ask for what they need, Stuck says that the seniors are usually pretty modest with their wishes. They often ask for practical items like slippers, clothing, pajamas or even reading material. Givers are encouraged to write a personal card to accompany the gift as a means of connecting with the senior who receives it.
“Although there are no promises to what I can deliver, with help from givers and other organizations, we have been able to expand and grow every year,” Stuck says.
And to help maintain the seniors’ privacy, six fire departments in the west metro—Wayzata, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, and West Metro (New Hope and Crystal)—work to deliverer the gifts directly from the trees to the seniors.
“These firefighters are the most incredible people ever. They will give you the shirts off of their backs,” Stuck says. “If you have ever seen a firefighter shed a tear, it is really cool.”
Volunteering their personal time, about ten firefighters from the Wayzata Fire Department help deliver gifts on their trucks every year. As their fourth holiday season with Be A Santa To A Senior approaches, fire chief Kevin Klapprich says it’s truly meaningful to be a source of joy for seniors during the holidays.
And with 15 years of service with this organization, Stuck wants people to know that more people need help than you think.
“I have built this Be A Santa To A Senior program from one community to another and I have learned that the people that need the most help are not just in poorer sections of the city,” Stuck says. “They are in every community.”
Visit beasantatoasenior.com to find a giving tree near you.