Secret Santas help spread Christmas cheer to seniors

Be a Santa to a Senior program expected to reach out to more than 200 seniors

Franchise owner Alistair Hicks

The trickiest part of being an anonymous elf isn’t getting the gift, it’s delivering it.

Such are the words of Peggy Hancyk, chief executive elf for the Saanich-based Be a Santa to a Senior program.

“You get people who open the door and ask you in for tea, they want to know how you are and ask about your day,” she says.

Hancyk is also the community relations agent for the region’s Home Instead service, where organizational details of the annual gift giving program lands on her. The team based at the Home Instead office has been running the local Be a Santa to a Senior for nine years.

“We are expecting to help between 200 and 300 seniors, it keeps growing,” Hancyk said. “There’s lots of lonely people out there, we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg.”

Eligible recipients are nominated by the caretakers, care home employees and concerned friends and neighbours. Members of the public chip in to purchase the gifts, and the Be a Santa volunteers then collect, wrap and distribute gifts.

The Be a Santa to a Senior program relies on the support of local businesses to erect Christmas trees and invites the public to purchase the gifts by placing tags on Christmas trees. The trees are adorned with tags listing the gift preference of an anonymous senior who is lonely or isolated. It’s a successful model used elsewhere, including the hugely popular CFAX Santas Anonymous.

“The tags on our tree at Walmart Uptown were taken care of almost immediately, and you know, the staff at these stores are often the first to grab a tag and buy something,” Hancyk said.

Larger stores such as Walmart (Uptown and Langford), Save-On-Foods and London Drugs have trees, as well as Forbes Pharmacy Goldstream, Sooke Evergreen Physiotherapy and Progressive Chiropractic (Saanich).

Some of the gift preferences the program is unable to supply directly but does its best.

Alistair Hicks, owner of the Home Instead chapter, says delivery is fun too.

“We have a few of us who do it and we only have an address, we’re not the gift buyer, just the deliverer,” said Hicks.

Some presents are slipped under or through the door, he added.

“Some are taken quietly and some by surprise. And of course, others want you to come in for a chat.”

For the most part, it’s food and pharmacy that are in demand, Hancyk explained.

“One person wanted a heater, and no, we can’t supply a heater, but we got them a gift certificate to get one. Another lady loves getting Christmas cards, so that’s exactly what is provided.”

Others seek companionship or a service that is available, and Be a Santa finds a way to find that service, too.

 

For more information visit beasantatoasenior.com.