Delivering Christmas cheer to seniorsIt started out as a silly little thing. Last year, an informal group of adult organizers, including Craig McMillan of Alexandria, just wanted to do something fun and different for the community during the holidays.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
It started out as a silly little thing.
Last year, an informal group of adult organizers, including Craig McMillan of Alexandria, just wanted to do something fun and different for the community during the holidays.
They discovered that while there were plenty of programs for children and families, there wasn’t anything that was geared specifically for local senior citizens at Christmas time.
The organizers asked a few seniors what they wanted. The overwhelming response was food, especially canned ham.
The organizers also discovered something else the seniors were craving: conversation.
So the organizers set to work, collecting donations and food for baskets, working with the United Way and getting young people involved in the effort as well.
Dozens of kids in the Alexandria Youth Hockey League not only delivered food but they were also encouraged to spend 15 minutes or so visiting with the senior citizens, asking them what their life was like when they were kids and other topics of conversation.
That was the start of the “Santa for Seniors” program. Last Christmas, 63 young people helped deliver 123 food baskets to senior citizens.
This year, it really took off. About 90 kids are delivering 180 baskets.
“We didn’t know how it would turn out when we started this thing,” McMillan said. “It blossomed on us.”
The organizers view Santa for Seniors as a way of saying thank you to the seniors who have helped shape the community in so many ways.
The response has been immensely satisfying.
“It’s wonderful to watch everybody come together and pitch in,” McMillan said. “This is the kind of thing that shows just how special our community is.”
The young people go out in groups of two or three to deliver a basket. The seniors are grateful for the food and the visit.
“A 10-year-old once told me, ‘That lady squeezed us so hard, her teeth fell out!’ ” McMillan recalled.
McMillan also remembers a special visit that he and Bruce Wiitanen from Juettner Motors made last year.
“This lady, who was all of 4 feet, 9 inches tall, just stared at the beautiful basket,” he said. “When I told her it was our community’s way of saying thank you, her eyes filled with tears.”
McMillan thanks everyone who was involved in the Santa for Seniors effort.
“What a heartwarming thing this is, especially at this time when we need heartwarming stories,” he said.
Anyone who wants to help with next year’s effort may contact the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties or McMillan at (320) 766-0266.