Friends of Bethany volunteers pose for a photo alongside the fully decorated Giving Tree. The tree is decorated with tags detailing the wish list of residents at Bethany Sylvan Lake. (Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla/Black Press news services)

Friends of Bethany volunteers pose for a photo alongside the fully decorated Giving Tree. The tree is decorated with tags detailing the wish list of residents at Bethany Sylvan Lake. (Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla/Black Press news services)

Giving Tree returns to spread joy in Sylvan Lake

Tree located in Shoppers Drug Mart on 50A St.

The Giving Tree is back for the 11th year of brightening Christmas for Sylvan Lake seniors.

Sylvan Lake’s Friends of Bethany organize the activity annually, featuring anonymous tags which display the Christmas wish list of each of the seniors living at Bethany’s long-term care and supportive living facility. Lakers who choose to share Christmas with a senior can grab a tag off the tree located at Shoppers Drug Mart to purchase a gift.

Bethany’s Volunteer Services coordinator Sandra Simpson said, “It really does help bring the spirit of Christmas to those residents in long-term care.” She added, “We wanted to ensure that the seniors get to celebrate Christmas in this way, by getting a gift on Christmas morning. The community has been really gracious in helping us do this for the past 11 years.”

Simpson appreciates all the support this event continues to receive from locals.

“I start getting calls in October asking if we’ve chosen a date for when the tree will be put up. A lot of community members have been great supports of this event for many years.

“They bring their families, I get lots of calls from children asking for ideas. In the past few years particularly, the tags only last a week or so until they are all gone off the tree. So, it’s really exciting that we have such great support from the community.”

Simpson asks people to purchase gifts around a $20 price range.

Simpson said, “Friends of Bethany group interview each of the residents for wishlists of things that they might want for Christmas.

“To protect their identity we put on the tags for those wish list items and each person who wants to participate takes a tag off of the tree and then can shop for those items and bring a gift to Bethany. The due date for this year is Dec. 13 to drop off the gift unwrapped.

“We have to make sure that each gift is appropriate for the residents. And then the volunteer group, the Friends of Bethany get together and beautifully wrap all the gifts and they are distributed to the residents on Christmas morning. So, each resident wakes up with a gift.”

The local volunteer group is part of Bethany Care Society. The group also hosts other local events for Bethany seniors such as men’s poker day, a ladies spa day, and Harvest Festival. For more information email Simpson at sandra.simpson@bethanyseniors.com.

“A great thank you for all the support to the people that have participated in the Giving Tree for all these years,” Simpson concluded.

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Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla / Sylvan Lake News

Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla / Sylvan Lake News