(From left) Joyce Walker, Ruby Davison, Jeri McBeth, Joyce Herrod, Sonja Calson, Bea Enns and Bev Schmahmann are with Seniors Helping Santa. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge seniors helping Santa

Giving to seniors at risk in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Joyce Walker and Joyce Herrod have seen many things in their more than 90 years.

For instance, they noticed there are many seniors throughout Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows who don’t have a lot for Christmas.

So in 2006, the two ladies, along with one other, started Seniors Helping Santa.

The idea was to get donations and hand them out to seniors at risk.

“We felt there was a need for it,” said Walker.

That first year, the ladies asked those in need to come to a room at the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society, Seniors Activity Centre.

“But they didn’t come in for the simple reason because they didn’t want people to know their situation,” said Walker.

So the ladies made up packages and tried to reach people through organizations like the Friends In Need Food Bank and Meals On Wheels.

RELATED: Donations wanted for at-risk seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Now, Bev Schmahmann, information and referral-outreach services with the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society, makes a list of people who need a package by approaching community organizations herself.

“We try to identify the most need,” said Schmahmann.

Once, she delivered a bag to a man who she could see was in need. It turned out he hadn’t seen anyone in three months and cried when he received the package.

The group of seven ladies will be making up around 100 gift bags, 65 for women and 35 for men.

The group has partnered with London Drugs, which has a Christmas tree on display outside the store at ValleyFair Mall.

On the tree, there are three different tags with a list of eight items on each.

All 24 items will go into a bag for a senior in need, including a toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, soap, toilet paper, deodorant, socks, scarf, gloves, pens and notepads.

People wishing to donate are encouraged to purchase the items on a tag and leave the items at the store, where they will be picked up and put into the gift bags by volunteers.

Jeri McBeth, a volunteer, is one of six drivers this year who will be distributing the packages for the first time.

“We can see the need in the community” said Jeri, who drives seniors to doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping.

She will then report back to Schmahmann if she sees someone who could use a Christmas package.

Gift bags are also brought given to the Katzie First Nation .

Students at Maple Ridge secondary bake shortbread cookies to be included in the packages. Pitt Meadows elementary students and children at Stardom Childcare make Christmas cards that are included as well.

This year, Walker will dress up as Mrs. Claus to encourage donations during the holiday season.

• Cash donations to the program can be dropped off at the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society, Seniors Activity Centre at 12150 – 224 Street.



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