When Jackie Reid visited John at his retirement home last Christmas with her son and husband, she didn’t know what to expect.
The Reid clan was one of many volunteers dropping off presents to some 400 seniors on the North Shore. John was living in a subsidized, long-term care facility and didn’t have a family.
“I said, ‘Hi John, we wanted to bring you a gift for Christmas. He smiled the biggest smile. His social worker said, ‘Oh John, I haven’t see you smile in a year.”
“Then he started to cry, and he was sobbing,” said Reid. “We asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ He said he’d never been given a gift for Christmas. I bawled. My son bawled, my husband was bawling. Everyone was crying.”
Reid, the marketing manager at Burnaby’s Rideau Retirement Residence, hopes to bring the same joy to more seniors this year. The retirement residence is participating in the Burnaby Christmas Bureau’s seniors’ sponsorship program. These are seniors with low-income who, like John, may not have any surviving family members left.
“It’s heart-wrenching how many people can be on that list. It’s sad, so it feels good to help seniors in need and give them (some) happiness during the holiday season,” said Reid, noting staff held a fundraising dinner on Nov. 20.
“It really means a lot to our residents here. They went to the gala and they donated their own money. You could see everyone so happy to get behind helping others,” she added.
If fundraising efforts don’t’ cover the seniors’ wish lists, Reid plans to visit businesses in the community and hand out cards.
“They take a card with the first name of the senior and just their last initial, and what that senior’s wishing for. They go out and purchase these gifts, bring them back in a gift bag,” she said. “It’s wonderful because when you take these cards out into the community, people go nuts. They get way more gifts than the senior actually wished for.”
On Dec. 20 and 22, Reid and her elves will be delivering the goodies on Santa’s sleigh (the community's 18-person bus).
Anyone wanting to support Rideau Retirement Residence can do so by calling 604-291-1792. Staff are able to take a credit card payment, which goes towards the purchasing of gifts. People can also stop by to pick up a seniors’ wish list, at 1850 Rosser Ave.
AgeCare, Harmony Court, at 7197 Canada Way, is also taking part in the bureau’s seniors’ sponsorship program. The retirement home also has an in-house silent Santa program for its residents living in its care centre wing. For more information or to lend a hand, call 604-527-3300.