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Santa for Seniors gears up for 14th year in Alexandria

The Santa for Seniors program was created by Craig McMillan and Bruce Wiitanen in 2009.

Santa for Seniors
Young people with the Alexandria Youth Hockey Association delivered food baskets to senior citizens in the area through the Santa for Seniors program in 2017.
Echo Press file photo
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ALEXANDRIA — Santa for Seniors in Alexandria is getting ready for its 14th year and it needs the community's help.

Each year, the program sends out students ranging from elementary age to high school — mostly from church youth groups and the Alexandria Cardinals Hockey Association — and their families to give gifts purchased with donated money to an average of 600 Alexandria seniors, ages 65 and up. This year, it is close to 800.

When the children deliver the baskets, they often spend time with the seniors and tell them the gifts are from the whole community. Inside every basket is a card made by elementary students from the Compass program and St. Mary's School.

The program works by someone — who is kept anonymous — requesting a senior citizen to receive a gift. The only qualifications are to be 65 or older and live within a 10-mile radius of Alexandria. The program accepts donations to purchase gifts, which are distributed to the seniors in one night. Just like Santa.

Every dollar of the donated money goes toward gifts. According to Tianna Ahrens, one of the members of the planning committee, they average about $16,000 in donations.

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This year, the committee is looking for more families to be a part of the delivery process. Those interested in volunteering can go to santaforseniorsalex.org. That is also where you can choose to donate and put in a request for a senior. Ahrens said to be on the lookout for an official sign-up form that will be available online as well.

"There's nothing better than finding out somebody in the community was thinking about you," said Ahrens.

The deadline for the request form is Wednesday, Dec. 7. Gifts will be delivered on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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