An initiative to bring holiday joy to isolated Montreal seniors has just launched its second season.
The West Island version of “Santa to a Senior” is spearheaded by Kirkland resident Alana Edwards. On Thursday, her gift trees at the Provigo in Kirkland officially launched.
The idea is simple: isolated elderly people who live in residences write down what they want for Christmas on a card that’s hung on the tree.
“It has the name of the person and then it has a gift request, so some of them like this one here is a Portuguese book or a puzzle,” Edwards explained to Global News as she looked at some of the cards on the tree at Provigo.
Gifts are often small, simple things, like pajamas, socks, or a bottle of wine. People shopping around grab one of the cards, purchase the small gift for a stranger, and Edwards makes sure they get it in time for Christmas.
“We just want them to remember that they’re not forgotten, that we are still thinking of them and that we still want them to feel special,” Edwards said.
“To be able to help out and give somebody that extra smile, why not?” said Theresa Irving, a Provigo shopper who decided to take part.
Last year at Provigo, Edwards collected about 500 gifts for seniors at five different residences. This year she’s expanded to three different collection locations, for eight different residences.
There’s now a tree at Calzone, the pizza and sub restaurant on Saint Charles Boulevard.
“Some people are picking up pizzas at the same time, some people just picking up tickets, saying hi and out the door they go,” said Calzone co-owner Shane Fuller.
The other is at Lub DDO, a garage where Edwards’ husband works.
“It takes a special person to go out and think of others that you have no idea who they are,” Michael Edwards said of his wife.
Calzone and Lub DDO are both offering $5 coupons to customers who take part in “Santa to a Senior” at their establishments.
Adding to the challenge, Alana Edwards is running around collecting, wrapping and delivering gifts while five months pregnant.
“It actually is a distraction from the morning sickness,” she said through laughter.
Last year, the gifts were hand-delivered by preschoolers. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that of course can’t happen.
“The staff at the residences, they will quarantine them for a few days before giving them to the residents this year,” Edwards explained.
With COVID-19, seniors have been facing even more isolation and hardship than usual. One of the residences getting gifts this year is the hard-hit Herron, which recently announced it’s shutting down.
“They’re still going to be there within the next few weeks, so we want them to remember that they aren’t forgotten at all,” Edwards said.
Those who can’t visit one of the three locations can also get involved at the Santa to a Senior MTL Facebook page. Edwards says several people have already sent gifts through Amazon. She expects to deliver about 1,000 gifts to seniors by Christmas.
The deadline to send in a gift is Dec. 1.