Lacombe and area residents once again have the opportunity to lift some local seniors’ spirits this holiday season by sending them gifts anonymously through the Adopt a Grandparent program.
In what is akin to a “Santa’s Anonymous” for seniors, the program is designed to give back to those living at the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre, especially those who might not have the opportunity to spend Christmas with their families.
“Some have fantastic family who are able to make it by, but some of their families are too far away, and some don’t have family left and it’s a sad situation where people get missed and forgotten about,” said Wendy Buyar, the organizer of the program. “It’s an opportunity to reach out to a group who are maybe not getting the love we like to get.”
The program originally began five years ago, and was the brainchild of former Lacombe resident Brandy Forgeron. When she moved away from the community, she asked if the Lacombe Market, which Buyar also helps organize, would be able to take on the initiative.
It was a program they were more than happy to carry on, and 2017 marked the first Christmas the market ran the program. Gifts were dropped off in December, and Santa and Mrs. Claus delivered the gifts to about 50 seniors, primarily in palliative care, on behalf of residents of Lacombe.
“I can’t even describe how overwhelming it was to go to that event last year. There were some really touching stories – lots of tears. It was a really beautiful event,” Buyar said.
“It was nice to bring in necessary items, but it wasn’t just toothbrushes and toothpaste. There were teddy bears and you wouldn’t believe watching an 80 year old woman get a teddy bear, or the gentleman who got a penguin and talked about loving penguins – I was weeping.”
This year, there are 71 seniors in the long-term care facility at the hospital, and they’re looking to provide a $20 gift bag for each one of them, as well as a few extra, in case new residents move in over the holiday season.
Some of the most needed items include basic hygiene items such as nail clippers, scent-free body washes and lotions, and disposable razors. Other needs include socks and slippers with rubber bottoms, nightlights, reusable water bottles, and toothbrushes, toothpaste and toothbrush holders.
It’s also asked those creating gift bags throw in a few more fun, “luxury” items, such as nail polish for the women as they’re not allowed to share, scarves, lap blankets, easy crafts or colouring books and markers, as well as stuffed animals.
Homemade baking isn’t allowed in the bags, but sweets can be included, however, it should be noted nursing staff will go through them to ensure the grandma or grandpa who gets the bag has no allergies or medical issues with the sweets.
Drop-offs for bags will be at Community Physical Therapy, Lacombe Storage Center, 50th Ave. Bed and Breakfast and the 21st annual Lacombe Christmas Faire on Dec. 1. Bags will be accepted until Dec. 10.
Delivery will happen sometime after that, however, Buyar stressed the program is anonymous and those creating gifts will not be able to deliver the bags in person.
“Everyone wants to meet the grandparent they’re giving a gift to,” she said.
“Sadly, because of health and privacy reasons, nobody will ever know who they gave to, they just get to know in their heart what they did.”
For more information, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/167393210849583.