We started Operation Secret Santa for the 2011 Christmas holiday season.The information shown below relates to the first collection of gifts for seniors. We were so happy about the success of the 2011 program that we decided to do it again with a few minor changes. There is no need to wrap or package the gifts. We have to have them “open” so that the activity directors can make sure that they are all appropriate for different levels of care. Wonderful and generous people responded to my requests and we had over 650 gifts each year so 650 residents of local nursing homes got a gift from a stranger!
A local artist donated 500 beautiful Christmas cards that she designed. With parchment textured envelopes. See below.
If you want to just place the items in a Dollar Store type gift bag, that is fine or maybe decorate some white lunch bags. Or any sort of decorative container. I am not artistic or creative in the ways of making a package look pretty, so just “do your thing” – that would be so appreciated.
The above flyer was my initial request for items for Operation Secret Santa. The North Penn Reporter newspaper wrote an article in 2011. I received so many wonderful gifts to distribute. My living room was filled and it looked like Santa’s workshop. But guess what? They have all gone to lift the spirits of the residents of local nursing homes.
The letter below was sent last night to the editor of The Reporter. I hope that she prints it so that everyone who helped out will know how much their kindness was appreciated.
Operation Secret Santa for Residents of Nursing Homes
I wish all of the wonderful people who donated items for Operation Secret Santa could be with me – to see the residents delighting in the marvelous gift bags and decorated shoe boxes that were given to me. I have visited five senior living facilities and had the privilege of delivering Christmas presents to 135 residents. I have seven more facilities scheduled to visit before Christmas.
On December 1st, the first day of Operation Secret Santa deliveries, I took 15 festively decorated shoe boxes to a facility in Bucks County. They were all lined with red and green tissue paper. Sparkly bows were wrapped around the boxes or taped to the top. Fifteen residents were sitting in a circle, one an amputee and many staring listlessly out the window.
I had a couple of Christmas videos to show them but before I began, I opened the top of each box. All eyes were gazing at me wondering what was going to happen next.
I couldn’t give each person a Christmas Goodie Shoe Box at random because lots of boxes had things in them that were “contraband” for certain people. Like people with diabetes could not have the box with Hershey Kisses and hard candy. (Although, they would have taken the treats in a minute.)
So, I emptied all of the items on a big table and gave each person an empty holiday-wrapped shoe box and then they “shopped” at the table. They all swung their wheelchairs toward the “store” and selected five (or more) items that they wanted to have.
They couldn’t believe that the presents were free: all occasion greeting cards, stationery, pens, notepaper, stamps, stuffed animals, soft blankets, Christmas cards, a large print Bible, magazines, books, magnifying glass for reading small print, non-skid socks, slippers, a pretty housecoat, soft pajamas, lotions, cookies, candy, gum, wallets and purses, and so much more.
For the past few weeks, boxes of donated gifts arrived on my doorstop. Many were delivered anonymously and some had cards with a family’s holiday message. Others just had first names like Sonia, and Debbie from Hatfield. Six chock-filled with goodies boxes were donated by a group of co-workers.
There were ladies who asked their friends and neighbors to decorate and fill boxes with home-made crafts and store-bought presents. And there were husbands and wives who shopped and came by to deliver things.
I had one “shoplifter.” She maneuvered her wheelchair to the edge of the table displaying all of the gifts. She selected her five items and then took one of my white plastic trash bags and filled that one up with items. She said, “Excuse me. I have to go back to my room to go to the bathroom.”
She wheeled back a few minutes later without the white bag – all stashed safely in her room. And that’s okay – quite okay with me and probably with you, too. I remember a past conversation with her when she said how glad she was to live in the nursing home. Everyone here is my family. I didn’t have much of one. I was what they called the Black Sheep. Everybody practically said Baa Baa when I was around. I could never do anything right.
If these extra gifts make her feel a little loved……isn’t that what we want to happen?
Thank you to everybody. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I am so happy delivering the Christmas goodies that the readers of The Reporter donated. I wish you could see what your gifts mean to people who like surprises – just like kids do at holiday time. I wish that I could thank everybody by name. And a special thank you to the people that I have not thanked personally.
There were five packages that had no identification for me to call –perhaps a name tag fell off or blew away and to the people who left a note and the ink smeared, I express my very sincere gratitude through The Reporter.
With gratitude and admiration to all,
Patricia C. Gallagher