Making Christmas brighter for everyone is the goal of the third annual Be Their Secret Santa program, launched November 15 by the St. Joseph's Foundation in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The program aims to raise $20,000 to buy gifts for clients of St. Joseph's Care Group in the city.
"Christmas is special for everyone," said Katrina O'Neill, the foundation executive director, and "we want to make sure that this very important time of year is recognized for everybody."
The program encourages staff at St. Joseph's Care Group to nominate an adult, most of them seniors, who will be alone for Christmas. Then, the foundation makes sure those people have a gift, and a stocking to open on Christmas morning.
First-ever Christmas stocking
"We actually have a number of lovely stories," O'Neill said. "One woman had never received a Christmas stocking before, even as a child, and had always wanted one so this was a special treat for her."
Gifts include either a new set of pajamas or night gown and house coat, or new hat and mitts if that's more suitable. The stockings include food treats, puzzles, a crossword book "and things they can use all year long," O'Neill described.
Since the program began three years ago, O'Neill said the number of recipients has steadily increased with over 300 recipients expected for this year alone.
"Our first year we had 130, our second year we doubled that amount." O'Neill said
She attributes much of the growth to greater awareness of the program and people recognizing that adults are living longer, in some cases outliving their families.
Anyone wishing to lend a helping hand can do so by visiting the St. Joseph's Foundation website for more instructions and details.