Seniors’ Santas

Volunteers ensure that Alberni Valley seniors have a Merry Christmas.

Michelle Gard

Local residents are making sure senior citizens in the community are not left out of holiday giving this season.

In the spirit of Christmas, a hamper project is underway and has become a labour of love for two new friends. After Shari Fast saw how much help Michelle Gard provided to homeless resident Steve Rickard, she started thinking about those who do not get as much attention.

“I started thinking about the people we don’t see because they are shut-ins or lonely and they are mostly seniors,” Fast said.

She used her father as an example. Living in Nanaimo on his own, he has only one leg and has limited mobility to the outside world.

“He only has family and is lonely,” Fast said. “I started with a hamper for him and it has snowballed.”

Fast contacted Gard online with the suggestion of putting hampers together for senior citizens who will be alone this Christmas.

“I offered to join in right away. I saw her post and thought, ‘Why not?’” she said. “There’s no reason not to.”

Immediately an elderly neighbour came to mind.

“She has lived down the street since I was born and doesn’t get out,” Gard said. “Those are the people we want to help.”

The two started purchasing gift and essential items, as well as special food items that the elderly might not enjoy during the rest of the year. Soon offers of cash and donations came in and they are hoping to fill the hampers with fresh baking and knitted items, like slippers or socks.

Local grocers, Quality Foods, Save-On-Foods and No Frills are all contributing food items.

With the help of all the proceeds from Santa photos at the Blue Marlin on Sunday, Dec. 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., they expect enough funds to meet or exceed their goal.

“We went from the idea of making five to 10, but now we are shooting for 10 to 20,” Gard said.

Gard’s six-year-old son also offered to pitch in to help put the hampers together.

“As a single mom, I want him to realize it is important to give back,” she said.

As a recent empty-nester, Fast said the project has restored her energy just as she was beginning to feel sorry for herself.

“It has given me a charge and lit a fire under me,” Fast said. “I wasn’t even going to put up a tree but this has snowballed through my heart, mind and friends and has rejuvenated my Christmas by giving me a purpose.”

Another opportunity to help seniors this holiday is through a local Adopt a Grandparent initiative. Ellie Hadley has organized the project that will fund gifts to be distributed at Heritage Place on Dec. 21.

“Adopt a Grandparent is something I decided to do to give back to our community at Christmas,” Hadley said.

“I’ve experienced spending Christmas alone and it wasn’t fun as a young person. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to experience it later in life and having nobody to visit.”

Sponsors pay $20, which gives his or her adopted grandparent a pair of warm socks and a full-sized botanically-based hand cream.

Twenty sponsors are still needed but the deadline is quickly approaching.

Hadley needs confirmation by Tuesday, Dec. 15. She can be reached at 250-731-7535 or

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