Project Snowflake: This secret Santa brings joy to seniors in St. John's

·3 min read
Krista Domino, right, oversees the Snowflake Project at St. Luke's Community Living in St. John's. Evelyn Jones, left, is one of the people who has received secret Santa gifts for the past few years. (Submitted by Krista Domino - image credit)
Krista Domino, right, oversees the Snowflake Project at St. Luke's Community Living in St. John's. Evelyn Jones, left, is one of the people who has received secret Santa gifts for the past few years. (Submitted by Krista Domino - image credit)
Submitted by Krista Domino
Submitted by Krista Domino

A special secret Santa project at a St. John's retirement home makes sure residents wake up to gifts under the tree on Christmas Day.

For the past six years, the "Snowflake Project" has been making seniors' wishes come true at St. Luke's Community Living.

Krista Domino, the home's adult day program co-ordinator, says when she and her co-workers came up with the idea in 2016, they wanted something that would resonate with St. Luke's.

"We picked snowflakes for winter and snow, and it was something we felt we could run with," she told CBC News on Monday.

St. Luke's offers affordable housing as well as long-term care, and Domino says residents in both are targeted with the Snowflake Project.

Many residents, says Domino, receive a "comforts allowance" of $125 a month from the provincial government that they use to pay for their phone bills or to get their hair done.

But often there is no money left to buy more expensive personal-care items, and that was one of the reasons they started the program.

"We have residents in long-term care that maybe don't have any family or, you know, just for whatever reasons their income is lower. So [when] we started out, that was the main reason," said Domino.

"Now we pick people because they could just use a little bit of happiness or, you know, brighten up their Christmas."

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

One of the residents picked to experience some Christmas joy is Evelyn Jones.

For her, the secret Santa is a sign of affection by the staff. She said she loves living at St. Luke's because of people like Domino.

"I got my family at St. Luke's," said Jones, who has been living at St. Luke's for the past 11 years.

"Last year, my God, I got clothes last year and chocolates and shoes," said Jones. "Snow boots. I got a lot of stuff last year, blankets and everything."

This year, Jones asked for personal-care items.

"I asked for a lot of body wash," said Jones. "Soap and all that, right. Even stuff for me teeth, get me teeth clean. Asked for that, too.… I don't ask for much. No, no, I don't torment [Krista] too much with that."

Like Jones, most residents don't ask for much.

"They tend to be thrilled and overwhelmed with even the smallest gifts," said Domino.

"In long-term care, we like to provide items that are more of a comfort of what they would have when they were at home."

Chosen residents tell Domino and the other volunteers what they would like to receive from their secret Santa. The wishes are then noted on paper snowflakes, which are hung on a Christmas tree in the main entrance of St. Luke's.

What started out with about 40 snowflakes on the tree has now more than doubled.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Community groups and companies are among the donors, many of whom have a personal connection to the facility.

"It's overwhelming," said Domino.

"People just want to help.… A lot of times it's in memory of their grandparents or their parents and they just want to give back in some small way."

But the most rewarding aspect of the project, says Domino, is the residents' gratitude.

"There are a couple that recognize that they've been given a gift, and they said it just means the world to them."

And so, Domino can't wait for the residents to open their gifts.

"It feels good to give back," said Domino.

"This way, we can help take away some of that stress of the items that they would like to have that they may not necessarily have the funds to pay for. So it's a wonderful feeling to provide Polident for our residents."

The donation drop-off deadline is Friday. To inquire about donations, call St. Luke's at 709-752-8900 or email Domino at krista.domino@easternhealth.ca.

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