For a variety of reasons — health, financial, absent family — there are a lot of isolated seniors in Red Deer in need of some Christmas cheer.
This year the Gifts for Grandparents program is expected to be on par with numbers last year, possibly even a little higher.
Liz Leinweber, Family Services of Central Alberta volunteer co-ordinator, said Wednesday that they gave out gift bags to 568 people last year. This year they expect to see a similar number, between 550 and 600.
The program has grown every year since it began in 2007. Meant to bring some seasonal cheer and friendly personal contact into the lives of seniors in need, it is operated by Family Services, a charitable organization that offers family support programs.
Leinweber said when Gifts for Grandparents first started, it helped about 50 seniors. By its third year, 250 people were helped. In 2012, 450 received gift bags, and 512 in 2013.
Completely donation based, with no budget, anything donated to the program goes to the program, Leinweber said.
“We’ve never had to turn anyone away.” While they expect the number of seniors to be similar, they are hoping the economic downturn will not affect donations, she said.
Suggested donations include throw blankets, bath towels and mats, toiletries for women and men, mittens, scarves, hats and toques, coffee, tea or hot chocolate, large print books including those with crossword, Sudoku and word searches, cookies and candies including those for diabetics, crackers and jam.
Gift cards and cash are also being accepted, for which tax receipts will be issued for donations of $20 or more.
Santa’s Workshop, where they put the gift bags together, opened three days ago at Family Services, and donations might be a little slower, Leinweber said. One group that gives smaller bags that go inside the larger gift bags usually donates 50 bags, but this year it was only able to donate 40 bags.
She said they now have enough to fill about 200 bags and there are some regular donations still to come in, one being a large one from Camille J. Lerouge School.
The money raised goes toward purchasing items that they are short of, Leinweber said.
Seniors are referred through community programs and agencies, including the Family Services adult support program, Piper Creek Foundation and the Golden Circle.
Leinweber said about 85 per cent of the seniors — often not very mobile so they don’t get out as much anymore — are single.
The kindness offered through the program is always rewarded with thank yous, smiles and people a little less lonely, Leinweber said.
Donations to the Gifts for Grandparents program should be dropped off by Tuesday at Family Services of Central Alberta, located at 5409 50th Ave.
The gifts will be delivered on Dec. 16 and 18.
If you want to volunteer for Gifts for Grandparents, contact Leinweber at 403-309-8215.