Be a Santa to a Senior program still in need of gifts

This year, the program is all online.
This year, the program is all online.(Ashley Boles)
Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 3:55 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The holiday season isn’t just about the gifts, or even the thank you’s.

”Just a note to thank you so much at your gifts at Christmas. It’s so kind and thoughtful of you. That’s from Gladys,” said Betsy Head, who became emotional reading a stack of thank-you notes from previous holiday seasons.

Head is the franchise owner for Roanoke Home Instead, a company who helps older adults stay in their homes and live independently with caretakers. For the past 17 years in Roanoke and 16 years in Lynchburg, Home Instead offers the program “Be a Santa to a Senior” to its community.

“In Roanoke there are just over 800, Lynchburg just over 900, so combined just over 1,800 seniors in this year’s program. Right now we’ve got just over 275 seniors that don’t have a gift.”

The program usually happens in person, but this year things are different. Instead of choosing a senior’s name from a Christmas Tree at the mall, you can sign up to buy a present for a senior at Amazon Business has made it so that the sender just sees the senior’s first name and last initial, as well as a shopping list. The senior’s address is hidden, but the present gets sent directly to them.

The program, run through Home Instead, looks different this year - it’s being conducted through Amazon instead of in person. For the most part, the seniors receive their packages directly.

The problem though is how many seniors still need Santas, all before Friday.

“This is an exceptionally bad year, this year we still need 20% of the gifts which is that 275 number,” said Head.

While senders won’t get to see the oftentimes priceless reaction from their senior, the reason to participate is to help a senior feel less isolated, in a year where isolation has taken so much. According to Head, a single box can make a world of difference.

“This senior knows that someone chose my name, purchased the things on my gift request list, and I know that I am loved even if they can’t visit me this year.”

The notes that follow say it all.

“May god bless you in the new year and to good health, happiness and prosperity,” said Head, reading another note.

The deadline this year to purchase a gift is December 18.

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