STORY AND PHOTOS
After launching the Santas for South Shore Seniors program in November 2018, Shannon Stewart of West Northfield. has seen the community-based initiative grow in a groundswell of generosity.
Based on a program launched in Halifax, Santas for South Shore Seniors pairs community members with seniors in the area who are in need of one thing or another, including just kindness, over Christmas.
Last year there were 12 such seniors who were "adopted" by South Shore residents and received Christmas presents. This year, there are 228, according to Stewart.
"I'm amazed," she told LighthouseNOW, as she stood in a room at the newspaper that was brimming with Christmas presents that volunteers had dropped off. "And next year should be even more," she added.
Once again LighthouseNOW agreed to be the dropping off point for the Christmas presents. Front office staff were kept hopping as a steady stream of good Samaritans dropped off gifts at the counter.
Stewart describes the initiative as "community members helping community members." People were encouraged to notify Santas for South Shore Seniors if there was a particular elderly person who could use something extra at Christmas.
It may be a family member, neighbour or even a senior in a nursing home. The senior's needs or wants are conveyed to Santas for South Shore Seniors. This year, some seniors had contacted the group directly asking for help.
"Sometimes it's winter boots, and a winter coat, hat, mitts. Sometimes it's grocery gift cards. You know, a lot of it is necessities," explained Stewart of the items often needed or suggested.
Of the presents dropped off this year, often the elaborate and creative wrapping was a gift in itself.
Stewart told LighthouseNOW in the past she hopes the organization will grow and spread so it can bring Christmas cheer to "as many as possible."
However, she reminds that it's not only at Christmas that people are in need.
"We really need to be on the ball in helping midway through the year too," she said.