A group of three volunteers has made some seniors very merry this Christmas.
Rachel Fisher, a Pitt Meadows resident, along with Paige Benda from Maple Ridge, joined hands with Jaimi Sinclair to bring joy to seniors for the Holiday season. The seniors gift giving program was started more than 30 years ago by Sinclair, a Burnaby resident. Since then, the program has helped many thousands of seniors living in long-term care by surprising them with gifts of warm clothing, toiletries, small luxuries and other much needed items, such as calendars, hand made wheelchair or walker bags, lap blankets and pictures for their rooms.
“We focus on residents of long term care homes and who have little or no family support or the financial resources to buy these items themselves. This means they would receive nothing at Christmas without our help,” said Fisher.
This year, the three organized gift bags for 121 seniors at 11 different homes, including Royal Ascot, Central City Lodge, Adanac Park Lodge, Kopernik Lodge and German Canadian Care Home.
The three usually start contacting the care homes in October, to ask who needs help, and to ask staff to make a wish list for those residents. The staff fills out a form indicating the resident’s size, primary gift request and secondary gift request. The primary gifts are things the resident really needs, such as new pyjamas or night dress, warm cardigan, coat and the secondary gifts are usually smaller items such as underwear, undershirts, socks etc.
“Occasionally we get requests for items such as a watch, a scarf, jewellery. Some ladies ask for nail polish or lipstick which helps them feel good and brightens their day. Many seniors ask for a teddy bear or stuffed animal that they like to hold or sleep with. If the senior has a special interest, such as model airplanes, or trucks, books, cats or dogs, we try to give something to fulfill those requests too. Often the donor will include a Christmas card or a drawing or a painting from their kids,” she said.
After collecting the wish lists, the three match the seniors with donors. The three then ask the donors local to them to purchase the items and deliver to them. For anything that is missing, the three purchase those items and include them in the gift bag with the help of a GoFundMe page they have set up.
The gift bags have now already been delivered to the care homes. They are usually given to the residents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
“Each year we get heartwarming letters of thanks from the staff telling us how delighted and surprised the residents were to receive such amazing gifts,” said Fisher.
The program has had donors from all over the Lower Mainland but many come from Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.
“A few years ago, when I started asking for donors to match with a senior, the response from the Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge community was fantastic. Hundreds of people stepped up and offered to shop for a senior. Many of them talk about how much they enjoy the shopping experience each year and also taking their kids along to purchase the gifts,” she said.
The group also has several locals who provide handmade products such as Maple Ridge’s Judy Denham’s lap blankets, Langley’s Leslie Morrison’s wheel chair and walker bags, and another artist, who makes quilted wall hangings to brighten the rooms of the seniors.
“I’ve been involved for about 10 years now and it is absolutely the best part of Christmas for me. It feels good to help people who really need it and would otherwise be forgotten. So many times we focus on giving gifts to friends and family that don’t really need those items. I love knowing that we are supplying things that these seniors really need, that make their lives better and ultimately that they know that someone remembered them at Christmas,” Fisher said.
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