Be a Santa to a senior

Tara Angell, a nurse at Victoria General Hospital, picks a name off the tree.

Tara Angell, a nurse at Victoria General Hospital, picks a name off the tree. (DANI FINCH) Photo Store

Instead of buying gifts for her girlfriends this Christmas, Marion Ridsdale is helping out a senior in need.

Ridsdale, a St. James resident, said she and three of her girlfriends and their families have been  exchanging gifts, but after last year, decided to give to someone in need instead.

This year, each family is participating in Home Instead Senior Care’s Be a Santa to a Senior program, which delivers gifts to low-income seniors across the city.

"We decided enough was enough, the kids get enough presents, we get enough presents and we wanted to do something for someone else," Ridsdale said, adding the interest in the program has snowballed to two other friends.

"I picked up five tags for friends," Ridsdale added.

This year’s Be a Santa to a Senior program was launched on Nov. 13 at Victoria General Hospital.

The program allows people to pick ornaments with the first names of seniors along with their gift requests off of a Christmas tree. People can then buy items on the seniors’ wish list, and return the wrapped gifts to be distributed to seniors in need.

"As the years have gone by and we get older we have everything, we don’t need any more stuff… and I just know someone else is going to feel better (with these gifts)," Ridsdale said.

"The requests are so unbelievably plain and necessary — it’s a track suit, a sweater, things you and I take for granted. There’s a tremendous amount of lonely people out there, for them to get a little gift is something nice, and really no hardship on us to do it."

Julie Donaldson, owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Winnipeg, said the purpose of the program is to reach out to seniors who don’t have families or care givers to visit with during the holidays and often feel isolated. Donaldson said Home Instead has distributed more than 1,500 gifts in the four years the program has operated. Last year alone it distributed 700 gifts.

"I think it’s so important to give back to seniors at their most lonely and isolated time in their lives, especially if they have little or no family," said Donaldson, who lives in Charleswood.

Damien Goodridge, recreation manager of Revera Inc, who works out of Parkview Place Care Centre, and provides Home Instead with names of seniors and their gift requests, said many residents who benefit from the program don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with, and would otherwise not recieve a gift at Christmas.

He said one moment that particularly sticks out in his mind was when a young child of about 6 years old participated in the program and brought the gift he purchased with his own money to give to a resident in at Parkview place. "The gift was a sweater.  She thanked the child profusely through tears of happiness, immediately put it on, and wore it proudly throughout the rest of the day," Goodridge said.

Tags can be picked up at the Home Instead office at 610 Sherbrook Street until they run out. For more information on the program go to or our local site