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Children give more than food to seniors

Last year, a group of preteens returned from their visit to Bethany Home and told Craig McMillan how great of a time they had. One girl stood in the back, with tears in her eyes.

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“I didn’t have enough baskets for all of them,” she said.

A program that started off as McMillan’s simple idea of bringing youth and elderly together has morphed into the third annual Santa for Seniors.

“This is about caring, loving and giving,” McMillan said. “Not just baskets, but time.”

Santa for Seniors is a program where children bring gift baskets of food to senior citizens in Alexandria. More importantly, it allows the two generations to visit and connect.

“The key is getting to do something where everybody wins,” McMillan said.

The comment from the girl with tears in her eyes motivated McMillan to set a goal of 420 baskets this year, twice as many as the 203 baskets delivered last year. He said he made a promise to the little girl, and he will make sure that promise is fulfilled.

“This isn’t about me or about me doing this,” McMillan said. “I’m not looking for a pat on the back; I’m just looking to get kids and seniors together.”

More than 330 youth from the Alexandria Area Hockey Association and 100 parent volunteers will help organize food, assemble baskets, and make deliveries on December 19.

Delivery is done in groups of two or three kids, with one adult supervising. They present the baskets as a gift from the community in thanks for all the seniors have done over the years. The groups then stay and visit with each individual for at least 15 minutes, but usually more.

McMillan’s goal is that someday the kids who take part in Santa for Seniors will look back and remember what they did and the connections they made. Perhaps, one day, they will be the ones leading the program in their community.

Santa for Seniors will be collecting 2013 donations until December 16. Any donations after that date will rollover to the 2014 funds. Those looking to help or make a donation can contact the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties at (320) 834-7800.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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