Wendy Buyar (left) hands gifts off to a hospital member to take inside the facility on Dec. 4. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)

Wendy Buyar (left) hands gifts off to a hospital member to take inside the facility on Dec. 4. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)

Adopt-A-Grandparent program helps a record number of seniors in Lacombe and Bentley

The program aims to connect local seniors with community members for the holidays

Lacombe’s Adopt-A-Grandparent program has helped bring Christmas spirit to over 100 seniors this holiday season.

The program is organized by Lacombe Regional Tourism and has taken place every November since 2014. The goal of the program is to connect members of the community with seniors for the holidays.

Many seniors have sent a list of a few items they would like to Lacombe Tourism and then are matched with an anonymous family who will donate the items.

The senior’s wish lists can include a variety of items such as nail clippers, knitting needles or their favourite chocolate bar.

“There are all sorts of really neat things on these wish lists and this year there’s even one gentleman who wanted a fedora,” said Wendy Buyar, Marketing and Event Planner for Lacombe Regional Tourism.

This year there was an outpouring of support for the initiative and the seniors in Lacombe were adopted quickly.

“We had the 72 seniors at the hospital adopted within a couple of days,” said Buyar.

After the seniors were adopted from the Lacombe Hospital, Buyar turned to the local senior’s lodge and then to the Bentley Care Centre.

“I’m sure we could have kept going because we still had more people asking [to adopt seniors],” said Buyar.

This year there are close to 800 items that have been donated so far.

In a normal year, the gifts would be delivered to seniors in person, possibly with the help of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 protocols, the normal festivities will not be taking place.

Instead, gifts will be delivered to the hospitals and care centres and then the staff at the facilities will handle the rest. The presents will go through several quarantine periods to ensure they aren’t carrying any viruses.

One unlikely bonus, in addition to the record number of donations, was the tourism this brought to the area. Some people who signed up to adopt a grandparent told Buyar they had never visited Lacombe before but wanted to support the fundraiser.

This resulted in a few families from Edmonton and Red Deer who were able to drop off their gifts and tour around the city discovering the local businesses.

“In a funny little way the program was able to benefit the community in another way,” said Buyar.

The initiative took on even more meaning this year because of the global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Canada’s older generations.

“This program is about connecting people and even if we can’t touch them and hug them like we really want to this is a way we can show them we care,” said Buyar.

Organizers were able to deliver gifts to the Bentley Care Centre and the Lacombe Senior Lodge on Thursday and the rest of the gifts were delivered to the Lacombe Hospital on Dec. 4. Though this gift delivery was done earlier than normal Buyar isn’t complaining.

“I think it’s not a bad idea for them to get the gifts a little early because this has been an awful year for everyone but especially for them,” said Buyar.

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There were two vans and one large semi-truck full of gifts for the grandparents at the Lacombe Hospital. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)

There were two vans and one large semi-truck full of gifts for the grandparents at the Lacombe Hospital. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)

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