Over the past seven years, Home Instead Senior Care has run Ber a Santa to a Senior in Canada with over 1.2 million gifts being presented to more than 700,000 seniors.
Today at Harbourfront Commnunity Centre in Toronto Home Instead Senior Care and former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino launched the 2010 season.
The program was viewed with mixed reactions from the seniors attending. Some felt that there was little need, at least for themselves, while others thought that the program was a valuable service that will help others.
While many seniors in Toronto are running around much as they did when they were younger there are those who are alone and in poor health. Without programs like Be a Santa to a Senior they may face the holidays without knowing that others care about them.
One woman I spoke to said that she thought the program was "full of shite." That reaction is not that uncommon, said Sharon Galway who runs the North York branch of Home Instead.
"We have had some who didn't see the need. We work with the seniors in our community and make it fun. We also bring in other agencies like Meals on Wheels. At all location the program has become a real community movement."
Another woman at today's event related personal cases of other seniors that she knows that have outlived their families and are alone. Without caring friends that visit they can face a bleak holiday season.
"There is one lady that if I or three of our friends didn't visit she would go a week between seeing another human being. She has a weekly aide worker but without us there is no one. She has no family."
Galway has been with the program for six years. She is dedicated to helping her clients and seniors who face health issues in their advancing years.
"We work with our clients to help them stay at home as long as possible."
Galway said that in Ontario OHIP does not cover their services which run $20.95 an hour. The agency does take insurance and works to keep their fees as low as possible in order to help seniors.
The Be a Santa to a Senior program has found that most seniors ask for everyday needs as a holiday gift. Pajamas and robes are very common requests as are pet supplies.
To take part in the program visit www.beasantatoasenior.ca
and enter your postal code to find the closest location. Each location has a special Christmas tree with ornaments with a gift idea printed on the back. Purchase a gift and return to the location to give the ornament and gift to a representative.
On Sunday December 19 there will be a gift wrapping party at Harbourfront Community Centre for the gifts donated.