Montreal

Playing Santa to a senior: Kirkland woman aims to make Christmas a little brighter for lonely shut-ins

Thanks to Alana Edwards' initiative, would-be Santas can pick an ornament from the tree at the Provigo in Pierrefonds. Attached to each ornament is the name of a senior and that person's holiday wish list.

Seniors' Santas can pick a senior's name rom Pierrefonds Provigo, return with gift from wishlist by Dec. 20

Alana Edwards got the idea for ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ from a Facebook post. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

When Alana Edwards worked as a recreation co-ordinator at a seniors home in Montreal's LaSalle district years ago, she saw how tough the holidays can be for some seniors.

"It's sad to see in residences how many people are forgotten about," said Edwards. "Maybe their families don't live here, or they don't have family anymore."

"You see loneliness at Christmas time in their expressions. You see their demeanours are more reserved."

Though she only worked there for nine months, Edwards says it was "her favourite job" — one that holds a special place in her heart.

While scrolling through Facebook, Edwards came across an idea that reignited her passion for helping seniors.

It's called 'Be a Santa for a Senior.'

It works like this: people drop by a participating business and pick up an ornament that includes a senior's name and that person's wish list for the holidays.

Then they buy the senior that gift, and it gets delivered to the recipient.

Teaming up with friends and family

Edwards reached out to her cousin Chelsey LaPlante, who works at Les Pavillons Lasalle as a recreation co-ordinator.

She spoke to a friend who works at Provigo on St-Jean Boulevard in Pierrefonds, on Montreal's West Island, and got the store on board.

As a crafter and stay-at-home mom, Edwards had Christmas ornaments and paper handy.

Once she got the seniors' names and their gift preferences, she began writing them on tags and attaching them to the ornaments.

Many of the requests are for small items, Edwards says.

"There's chocolate; there's CDs; there's pyjamas," she says.

One senior asked for a polo shirt. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

LaPlante says the staff at Les Pavillons Lasalle hand out small, generic gifts to residents for the holidays.

But she says receiving something more personal will go a long way.

"Having something that they actually want, tailored to them, I think adds an extra special touch," she said.

How to play Santa

Would-be Santas can pick an ornament from the tree at the Provigo in Pierrefonds.

Then they have until Dec. 20 to shop for the gift and bring it back to the grocery store, unwrapped.

Once Edwards and her team wrap the gifts, they'll take them to recipients — all seniors living at Les Pavillons Lasalle and Résidence Symphonie in Pointe-Claire.

Edwards' elves include other moms from her kids' preschool, as well as the children themselves.

"We're all going to bring all our kids to deliver them to the elderly," she said.

"It's just about making someone happy — a complete stranger," says Edwards. "Just by giving them a small thing, you're making their Christmas the best Christmas they've had in a long time."

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