Due to pandemic, Secret Santa program for seniors even more crucial

·2 min read

This time of year can prove challenging for seniors dealing with isolation, but with many of the pandemic-related restrictions remaining in place as the holidays approach, the next few weeks could prove even more difficult.

That’s why the Centre for Seniors Information is once again running its annual Secret Santa campaign in order to bring attention, connection and a few gifts into the lives of seniors this year.

This is the program’s seventh year.

“Seniors who experience isolation in a regular year are probably going to be even more isolated this year,” said Brandi Allen, executive director of the Centre for Seniors Information.

The organization has once again partnered with London Drugs for part of the campaign, with the downtown store posting a list of items it suggests people purchase and then leave under its tree as donations.

People can also directly support a senior with a $20 donation that can be dropped off at either Centre for Seniors Information location — in Brock Shopping Centre, at Tranquille Road and Desmond Street in Brocklehurst, and in Northills Centre, at 700 Tranquille Rd. in North Kamloops — or by e-transfer at info@csikamloops.ca.

Donated items will also be accepted, but Allen asks that people contact her first by email at brandi@csikamloops.ca or by phone at 778-470-6000 so arrangements can be made to receive them.

Allen said organizers were concerned about how successful the campaign would be in the midst of the pandemic.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what donations were going to look like this year,” she said. “I was a little worried because of the COVID situation. I thought, worst-case scenario, we’ll just do some smaller packages, but I think we’re going to be on par with exactly what we did last year.”

In 2019, 170 packages were put together, but organizers are hoping to be able to reach a few more seniors this year.

The Centre for Seniors Information has a list of gift recipients it maintains and the centre receives referrals from other organizations throughout the year of new seniors to include in their list.

“The number one thing that we look for in the people that we deliver packages to are people that are isolated and lonely,” Allen said, noting income level isn’t really a factor, as it’s more about breaking the isolation and allowing for a brief social interaction — though that’s something else that may have to change in 2020.

Along with precautions taken in receiving and handling donations, there will need to be changes made to the delivery process, which means those involved likely won’t be invited in for a quick visit as they drop off the packages.

“I’m not sure if we can have a quick visit outside,” Allen said. “We’re definitely going to have to be a lot more careful this year.”

Todd Sullivan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week