For many, the Christmas season includes family get-togethers and lots of opportunities to reconnect with old friends as well.
But for many, including some local seniors, it’s a relatively ‘solitary’ time of year, said Leanne Landry, older adult programming supervisor with Family Services of Central Alberta. That’s something the FSCA is working to change through the Gifts for Grandparents program – now in its sixth year.
“Who wouldn’t want to help someone who may or may not get a phone call or some recognition on Christmas?”
Last year, more than 450 gift bags were delivered to isolated seniors in Central Alberta just in time for Christmas. This year’s goal is to make Christmas brighter for 500 seniors in the community.
Through various services and programs, FSCA staff came to see there are many seniors who are either isolated or don’t have family in Central Alberta to celebrate the Christmas season with.
“We have a lot of referrals that come through home support.” Other agencies in the community provide referrals as well.
She also encourages folks to be on the lookout for seniors who seem to live rather isolated lives in their neighbourhoods, as these residents may be ideal candidates not just for the Gifts for Grandparents program but for other help FSCA can provide year-round as well.
“We want to find the truly isolated seniors.”
Donations are gratefully accepted until Dec. 17th, but will be taken after that date as well, said Landry, who is co-chairing the program along with Lisa Smith.
Suggested donation items run the gamut from slippers, socks, toiletry items for men and women, prepackaged cookies, crackers, jams, gift cards for coffee shops and grocery stores, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, books, word puzzles and other small gift items. Other ideas include pajamas, mittens, bed linens, bath/hand towels, nightlights, sweater vests and such.
Landry said that really, she likes to simply encourage folks to purchase whatever they feel is appropriate for a gift and drop it off at one of the donation locations.
Cash donations are also welcome, and donations over $10 are eligible for a tax receipt.
Landry said that donations can also be made with the ongoing costs of a senior’s home support services. The agency provides light housekeeping, meal preparations and grocery shopping.
In some instances, clients are struggling with their fees and are on fixed incomes. All donations designated for home support will help relieve some of the financial burden on seniors.
Gift cards can be purchased at FSCA in increments of $20 as well.
Landry also pointed out that volunteers are needed to help in the sorting, packing and delivery of the gifts. In the past, the program has seen overwhelming support from schools, service clubs and individuals and families and online applications are currently being accepted for volunteer positions.
Delivering the gifts is always a popular task for sure, but what’s also needed is help in the sorting and packing of donations, she added.
“We have donations coming in all the time.” She said that sometimes, they are coming in right up until 10 minutes before they close their doors on the campaign’s last day.
“It’s awesome. Sometimes we even get donations after Christmas.”
These are always put to good use – perhaps in the form of a care package – donated to someone who is in need, she said. “We always find a home for things that are needed.”
Meanwhile, Landry said the support for the program has been growing from the start. “The involvement and response from the schools is unbelievable,” she said.
Kids often help out with decorating bags for the gifts and making Christmas cards.
Support from the business community has also been tremendous.
Families have also been quick to get onboard.
“We have families that volunteer – they talk to their kids about volunteerism as well.” As Landry said, it’s a great way to promote the volunteering spirit within a family, too. “We are so thankful for the community.”
For more information on how to help out, or to arrange for drop-off of donations, call 403-309-5834 or 403-343-6400 or check out www.fsca.ca.