For many people, Christmas is a time to eat, drink and be merry with family and friends – but there are some who don’t have anything like that to look forward to.
Sean Louvel and his wife Brenda run Santa for Seniors in Regina, a small non-profit that provides gifts for seniors in care homes.
“For so many of them, once you go into a care home, it’s almost like you’re forgotten. And for a number of the seniors, they don’t have friends or family who live nearby, so no one visits or sees them. So, for them, it’s just so surprising that people care and remember them and give gifts, that it’s just touching,” said Sean.
Six years ago, the couple tried to find a group that benefited seniors during the holiday, but there weren’t any, so they started doing it themselves.
In the first year they took 16 names and brought gifts the week of Christmas. This year, they’ve committed to provide over 700 gifts. Sean said they could be adding another 200 names onto that.
“Anyone we talk to just gets excited at the chance to give back to seniors, and they realize that they tend to be more of a forgotten group. There’s so many programs out there for adopt a family, or adopt a child, or tots for toys, and things like that, but this is the only one I’m familiar with that does something for seniors.”
The gifts are given anonymously: they’re collected by Sean and Brenda, then distributed to the respective care homes the week of Christmas, and then are given out by care givers on the day.
The gifts have a $20 to $25 limit, but Sean said the gifts requested are often heartbreakingly simple.
“So many things that we just take for granted. People asking for new socks, you know, a new shirt, or just hygiene items, like they need nail cutters, or lotion, body wash, shampoo.”
Sean said they don’t get to see the seniors’ reaction when they get the gifts, but they’ve received thank-you cards before, and have heard from caregivers about the positive impact the gifts make in, what can be, a stressful time of year.
The non-profit doesn’t deal with individual members of the public becoming gift givers. Sean said they deal with groups, often employees at a workplace. He explained that one person volunteers to coordinate, people in the group choose names and buy gifts, then they’re brought to the Louvels to deliver. He said it would be too much for he and his wife to try to coordinate 700 different people and gifts themselves.
Sean said the response has been so overwhelming that, as of Saturday, they didn’t need any more people to buy gifts. But, if they do get more names and need more gift givers, he’ll post it on their Facebook page.