by Dennis Dalman
Many lonely and needy senior citizens will get some holiday cheer this season, thanks to a program known as “Be a Santa to a Senior.”
The program collects, wraps and delivers gifts to needy seniors in the greater St. Cloud and central Minnesota area. It started Nov. 11 and will run through Dec. 13.
This is how the program works:
On Nov. 11, Christmas trees were placed at area stores and businesses. The trees will be decorated with ornaments, each of which features the first name of a senior and gifts that might be appropriate for him or her. Shoppers can then choose an ornament from the tree, buy the items listed and return them unwrapped to the store with the ornament attached.
Retail employees, lots of volunteers and other “Santa helpers” will then wrap the gifts, which will be delivered to the seniors in time before Christmas Day.
The “Be a Santa to a Senior” program was started by Home Instead Senior Care, a network based in Omaha, Neb. that has locally owned franchises throughout the country, including one in Waite Park. Home Instead Senior Care is dedicated to finding, maintaining and staffing in-home care for senior citizens.
“Be a Santa to a Senior” has brought a touch of holiday cheer to many seniors. One of them was an 87-year-old woman named Mary, as told in a story on the Home Instead Senior Care website. Mary was at a nursing home when a Santa-to-Senior deliverer brought her a card and a gift. Mary was overwhelmed by the kindness. The next Christmas, deliverers brought Mary another card and gift and noticed she only had one card on her bulletin board, the very one they’d brought her the Christmas before. The deliverers had a talk with Mary’s caretakers who said, with sadness in their voices, that Mary never gets any mail or cards. That card, they said, was the only mailed item she’d received in the past year. They said Mary cherished the card and would read it over and over. The caregivers said that one card warmed Mary’s heart with the memory of total strangers making her Christmas a bit special.
The “Be a Santa to a Senior” program has 60,000 volunteers nationwide who make possible the giving of 1.2-million gifts for more than 700,000 seniors. An estimated 27 percent of people 65 or older (10.8 million people) are widowed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 11.8 million non-institutionalized people 65 and older live alone.
The following is a list of where shoppers can find “Be a Santa to a Senior” trees on display:
The Walgreen’s stores in Sartell, St. Cloud, Waite Park and Sauk Rapids; Cash Wise Foods in Waite Park; and Duet Internet and Phone at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud.
The “Be a Santa to a Senior” participating partners in the greater St. Cloud area are: Carefree Living, David F. Day Apartments, Good Shepherd Senior Community, Mother of Mercy Campus of Care, Ridgeview Place, Nature’s Point, Talahi Care Center, Sterling House of Sauk Rapids, Sterling Park, Sterling Park Commons, The Legends at Heritage Place and the Minnesota Department of Corrections at St. Cloud.
“Be a Santa to a Senior” gives back to older adults in our area, many of whom have had significant, positive influences on our lives,” said Daniel Arnold, owner at the Waite Park Home Instead Senior Care office. “During this season of giving, we encourage shoppers to buy a little extra to say thank you to these community members.”
For more information about the program, visit BeaSantatoaSenior.com or call 320-258-3055.