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Secret Santa: Lonely and isolated seniors get a warm surprise this Christmas

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Cathy Dobson

You’re never too old for Secret Santa.

That’s the philosophy of Tammy Froude, a personal support worker who knows many seniors in Sarnia could use a little extra love and attention right now.

“They live on their own in our community and are lonely, isolated and may not have as good a Christmas as others,” she said.

The married mother of two saw a social media post in mid-November about a North American program called Be a Santa to a Senior, in which non-profit and community groups identify seniors who might not receive any gifts over the holidays.

The idea is for agency workers to discretely find out what sort of things a senior might enjoy, and donations are tailored to that individual.

Froude found no one was co-ordinating the program locally and renamed it Secret Santa to a Sarnia Senior.

“The seniors in Sarnia deserve this program,” she said.

She put out a call to co-workers and friends to gauge support for donations, and it proved overwhelming.

“I thought, with the short (timeframe) I had that I might deliver gifts to 30 or 35 seniors. But I’m so happy to say there will be 63 this year.”

Froude got in touch with several local agencies like the Victorian Order of Nurses and Lambton Elderly Outreach.  They identified seniors and filled out the paperwork to note gender, gift idea and size.

The effort came together in just weeks.  Froude and her 16-year-old daughter, Taylor, delivered the first batch of wrapped Secret Santa gifts for distribution through the Salvation Army.  The rest were wrapped by high school students earning their community hours and, just days before Christmas, Froude took all the parcels to the agencies that knew where they were needed.

Confidentiality was mandatory, she said.  “No names were ever mentioned.”

She suggested donors spend no more than $25 on a present, but many went beyond that. Sweaters, bathrobes, chocolates, cookies, slippers, blankets, plants, gift cards and more poured in.

“So many people said they’d love to help,” Froude said.  “I’m so happy it’s been this successful.

“I’m definitely doing it every year and hope it grows bigger and bigger.”

She anticipates that if she starts working on Secret Santa Gifts for Sarnia Seniors in early November the 2016 goal could be set much higher.

“I enjoy doing this stuff,” she said.

Tammy Froude, centre, with daughter Taylor, 16, left, turns over 10 of the secret Santa gifts for distribution to Salvation Army administrative assistant Ashley Bird, right. Submitted Photo
Tammy Froude, centre, with daughter Taylor, 16, left, turns over 10 of the secret Santa gifts for distribution to Salvation Army administrative assistant Ashley Bird, right.
Submitted Photo

 

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