Grassroots goodwill that began with a dozen local seniors being “adopted” for Christmas, has, in just two short years, grown five times over with 61 older persons now on the list for “Adopt a Senior for Christmas” in Trail and Castlegar.
“These residents are seniors that would otherwise spend the holidays alone,” began Melissa Borsato, a Fruitvale mom who spearheaded the cause in 2017.
“The first year of the project we were able to sponsor 12 residents between CVL (Columbia View Lodge) and Poplar Ridge,” she said.
“This year, we have 61 residents and have received over 100 gifts for them, and over 180 Christmas cards. So amazing!”
It all began several years ago when Melissa read a Facebook post about an Okanagan pharmacy setting up a Christmas tree in the store and hanging on it the names of seniors, who were on their own for the holidays, along with their wish list.
The idea was for shoppers to pick a name and buy gifts from the wish list at the till. The store would then deliver the tidings so the older person would have a present, or two, to open on Christmas.
That year, it was too late for Melissa to get her own senior-centric initiative going. Then, over the next few holiday seasons, the mother-of-two became very busy with her own young family.
But she never could shake the notion of embracing seniors-on-their-own for Christmas. So in 2017, Melissa began her own “Adopt a Senior” chapter, and goodwill from surrounding communities quickly rolled in.
“I started the program after realizing the dire need for it in our area,” she explained. “What happens, is I contact care facilities and ask them if they have any residents who are alone, without any family members, and they give me a list.”
Due to confidentiality constraints, Melissa doesn’t visit the residents herself. It’s the staff who help out by visiting the person and finding out what he, or she, would like to have for Christmas.
“It’s things they want, not what they need, because we want to give them a Merry Christmas,” she said. “And a lot of times we get both, what they want, and also what they need.”
Melissa started a Facebook group, that has grown to 456 members, and posts who is in need of a sponsor. The gender, age and place of residence is listed, and each senior is given a number.
Sponsors then choose a “number” and fill the person’s wish list.
Melissa collects the gifts and assembles them in her home. She then arranges for a volunteer to pick up and deliver the presents to each facility, which in addition to CVL and Poplar Ridge, now include Rosewood and Chateau Manor in Trail, as well as Talarico Place in Castlegar.
Giving Melissa a hand with collecting gifts for the Castlegar seniors, is recreation assistant Angela Grant.
“We have also had so many incredible community members volunteer and offer to help, the response has been unreal,” Melissa said. “Due to confidentiality, we (are) unable to visit with the residents or see their reactions. I imagine, and hope, they light up when opening their gifts,” she shared.
“That sure is our goal.”
Besides “Adopt a Senior,” this season Melissa started three new side projects that she and her holiday elves are excited about.
“We collected donations for any seniors who are admitted to KBRH (Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital) over the holidays, these include crossword puzzles, fuzzy socks, chocolate/candy, homemade treats, colouring books, supplies, and magazines. Things to help pass the time.”
A staff member at the hospital will be making custom gift bags from these donations over the holidays.
As well, to make sure over a dozen seniors at Rota Villa Apartments in Castlegar won’t be missing turkey dinner this year, a group of volunteers prepared, cooked, and served a Christmas meal for residents, who otherwise wouldn’t have family to spend the holidays with.
“A very generous Trail business donated all the groceries for this meal,” Melissa said.
Volunteers have also partnered with West Kootenay Bags of Love Foundation. This charity collects donations year round, for anyone in need, not just seniors, and arranges them into beautiful care packages to donate whenever needed.
Melissa is also collecting toiletries (light or no scent) throughout the year for seniors, and she welcomes monetary donations to help these causes.
“There are other valuable ways to help throughout the year,” she suggests. “Donate your time and visit a senior!”
For more information, email Melissa Borsato at firstname.lastname@example.org.