SURREY — Gladys Ross was thrilled to receive a big box of Christmas gifts.
“This is lovely,” the Surrey retiree said as she adored the wrapped gifts given to her by those who operate a seniors-care business in White Rock.
“I won’t open them until Christmas – except for maybe a couple,” she promised with a laugh.
The moment, on a recent Wednesday afternoon, is what Christmas is all about.
Last week, a few dozen other seniors in Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Langley were given personalized boxes of gifts through the Be a Santa to a Senior program, organized by the region’s Home Instead Senior Care offices.
Wes Colby, who co-owns the White Rock branch with his wife, Nancy, said he feels good about making spirits a little brighter for local seniors who need it most.
“There’s a need out there every year,” he said. “We can’t do it all but we try to do as much as we can out of this small business, to make a difference, especially at Christmas.
The program’s “Santa Elves” are often moved to tears when they bring gifts to seniors on their delivery list.
“It’s heartwarming to bring the box to someone who didn’t know what to expect, or that it was coming at all,” said JoAnn Martin, a Home Instead employee who helps deliver the boxes.
“They’re usually so excited and emotional.”
Through the program this year, 59 boxes of gifts were delivered to seniors in the South Fraser region.
The gift-collecting begins each year in mid-November, when retail partners in the program – including Shoppers Home Health Care and Vancity locations – display Be a Santa to a Senior ornaments, each with seniors’ first names and their gift requests, on trees in their stores. A costumer then takes the wish list, or lists, from the tree, buys those gifts and later returns them to the store for sorting and distribution by the Home Instead people.
The gift boxes are delivered to local seniors one week prior to Christmas.
“We’ve gone to non-profits, including Seniors Come Share Society (in Surrey) and Deltassist, and they’ve helped identify seniors who are most in need or are in isolation,” Colby said. “Those organizations help put together a list of seniors for us, and we deliver the gifts to them.”
The wish lists include things like socks, soaps, cookies, clothing, coffee, phone cards, mittens, scarves, blank greeting cards and other items.
“We have people who come in with other things, too,” Martin noted. “Somebody brought in a couple cases of shortbread, the store-bought kind, that we distributed among the boxes here.”
One White Rock-area woman named Doreen is known as a “Winter Elf” around the Home Instead office, on Thrift Avenue.
“She’s an absolute sweetheart,” Colby said with a smile. “She must be in her 80s and is a bit shy. She told us she’s been through a lot of tragedy in her own life over the years, and this is her way of giving back and making herself feel a bit better. So she got an idea of what the needs were and she went out and shopped for all those things and brought them in.”
Ross, who operated pubs in Yorkshire, England, before she came to Canada, received a box of the gifts through the program last year, too, after signing up for some cleaning help around her home through the Come Share office in Surrey.
“It was lovely when (the box) came,” she recalled. “There was a blanket, two bath towels, two hand towels, facecloths – it was good, and I still have them. They’re all handy things. It don’t matter what’s in the box, really, it’s just a pleasure opening things.”