In 2011, local realtor Jay Lough Hayes had an experience helping a woman to bring holiday cheer to some seniors in the community. When that woman moved away, Jay resolved that helping to bring Christmas magic to seniors was “far too important to not do”.
So, in 2012, Jay launched “Santas for Peterborough Seniors”, a campaign to help co-ordinate generous gift givers in the community with local seniors who would not otherwise receive gifts on Christmas. Since then, about 350 seniors have received Christmas gifts each year.
The concept is simple. Jay and her volunteers collect names from many seniors’ organizations across the city. They place decorated trees in public locations, hanging gift tags for each senior on the trees. The gift tags include the first name of a local senior and gift ideas for that senior. Most gift lists include simple things like toiletries, candies, and socks.
Gift givers across the community then select a tag from one of the decorated trees, purchase a gift on the list, and return the wrapped gift with the name tag to the tree location. Santas for Peterborough Seniors then collect the gifts for distribution by Brinks to the nursing homes and shelters. Jay and her volunteers will also deliver individual gifts to many other seniors who are still living in their own homes.
Many gift givers ask if they can deliver gifts personally, so they can share in the seniors’ joy on Christmas morning. However, due to Ontario’s privacy legislation, the identity of the seniors has to be protected.
On Christmas morning, hundreds of Peterborough seniors will be blessed by the thoughtfulness of a few incredible volunteers and the generosity of an entire community.
The generosity and thoughtfulness of the gift givers never ceases to amaze Jay and her volunteers. People bring in bags overflowing with beautifully wrapped gifts not only for seniors, but for their four-legged furry friends as well.
Numerous businesses and organizations donate cash, just in case, to make sure that there are enough presents for everyone on the list. Several businesses assist by providing the locations and helping to facilitate the tag selections.
“It’s just been so much fun!” Jay says. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response every year and can’t wait to start again.”
The Santas for Peterborough Seniors Christmas trees are now up at Kawartha Credit Union at Lansdowne Place Mall (east side of the mall), Master Opticians (815 High St., across from Lansdowne Place), and the Peterborough Police Station (500 Water St.).
Please stop in at one of these locations, choose a name tag for a senior, and put a smile on a senior citizen this Christmas morning.
For more information about Santas for Peterborough Seniors, visit www.facebook.com/SantasforPTBOSeniors.
If you’re aware of a senior who has outlived friends and family and will not be receiving a Christmas gift from another source, you can contact Jay at 705-745-4704 with the senior’s name, and Santas for Peterborough Seniors will do their best to make sure their request is fulfilled.