Santa came early for 111 unsuspecting Extendicare Michener hill residents.
Led by siblings Amanda Bazar and Lonnie Wurm, three Red Deer families brought some holiday cheer to the seniors who do not receive gifts or do not have family visiting during the holidays.
Personalized gift baskets were filled with care to each resident’s taste whether it was with pictures, notepads, plants, pottery, blankets, hair products, calendars or the like.
Santa and his helpers went floor to floor handing out the presents much to the delight and surprise to the seniors on Friday morning.
“Oh my goodness,” cried Norma Dawson, 64.
“I love them so much. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I am so, so happy.”
The wheels started turning in late-October when the two sisters started thinking about their holiday plans.
Bazar’s husband, Mike Woods works in maintenance at the facility and they know some residents.
Bazar said there are people at Extendicare that are unable to be with their families or no longer have family.
“We just felt it would be really nice to be able to extend that personal interaction,” she said.
“It brings up their spirits. It makes them happier.”
They also knew it would be something that would make an impact in their children’s lives.
The families foot the bill for most of the items and received some donations from organizations in Red Deer.
Next year if they do it again, Bazar said they may have to do it a little differently and get some help because it was a lot of work.
Terry Vanbocquestal, Extendicare Michener Hill administrator, called the gift-giving a wonderful display of human kindness that reaches out to a vulnerable sector of the community.
“These are residents who are frail or in much need of attention at this time of year,” he said. “Many will go without unless you have individuals like this that have this giving heart to extend out and do us extremely special thing here.”
Vanbocquestal said he has not seen anything like this in the 30 years that he worked at the centre.
He said it is gratifying and moving to see young people taking the initiative to consider the needs of the elderly and to take the time to get to know the residents and to deliver the baskets at this busy time of the year. He said this gift will make Christmas special for some residents this year.
Also playing Santa’s elves were Mark and Laurie Lee and their family.
There are 220 long-term care and another 60 assisted-living residents living at Excendicare.