Nicole Shanks plays Santa in the parking lot at Home Hardware on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2019, collecting gifts from the Santas for Seniors program she instigated at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens this year. (SUSAN QUINN/Alberni Valley News)

‘Santas’ give gifts to Port Alberni seniors

Gifts collected for residents at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens Assisted Living

Seniors in Port Alberni will benefit from a new “Santas for Seniors” program that donates gifts to seniors in care.

Port Alberni citizen Nicole Shanks has partnered with Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens Assisted Living to collect gifts for its 55 residents this holiday season.

Shanks was in the parking lot at Home Hardware on Sunday, Dec. 15, accepting wrapped gifts from community “Santas” for the Tsawaayuus residents.

River Poirier, who is in Grade 2, and her mother, Kelly, brought their gifts. Kelly Poirier said participating with the Santas For Seniors is a good way to teach her youngest daughter about giving back to community and helping others.

Shaylee Henderson was one of a steady lineup of people who drove up to drop off their gifts. “This is my first year,” she said.

This is Shanks’ first year as well.

Santas for Seniors events take place across the country, collecting donated gifts to help curb loneliness among seniors in care during the holidays. London Drugs, for example, partners with senior care organizations every year for its Stocking Stuffers for Seniors holiday donation drive, which sees gifts collected and delivered to approximately 17,000 seniors across Western Canada before Christmas.

READ MORE: B.C. seniors need Santa too

Shanks has wanted to do something for seniors in Port Alberni for more than a year. “I looked into it a little bit last year and didn’t see anything happening,” she said. “I’d seen similar events held on the mainland and through larger retailers.”

That’s when she decided to start a Santas for Seniors program herself this year.

“I posted an event page and asked people to sign up.”

She reached out to Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens because they have a small number of residents that she felt was manageable for a solo effort.

“I wanted to go with one of the smaller [assisted living facilities],” she said. “I’m just one person, so I wanted to start on a small scale.”

All 55 residents at Tsawaayuus will receive gifts this year; Shanks will deliver them on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Shanks is not associated with Tsawaayuus, but calls herself a “community-minded person.” She hopes to expand the effort next year to include more care facilities.

“As usual, Port Alberni has been super supportive,” said Shanks. “It’s the kind of community that allows these things to happen and flourish. This is the start of many years to come, and hopefully we can expand it,” she added.

Anyone wishing to help her plan next year’s event can message her privately on the Santas for Seniors Facebook page.

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Shaylee Henderson, left, drops off her Santas for Seniors gift with Nicole Shanks on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. This is Henderson’s first time participating in this program. (SUSAN QUINN/Alberni Valley News)

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