After three days of wrapping just about every gift imaginable, the generosity shown during Guelph's first-ever Adopt-a-Senior Christmas gift drive has exceeded the expectations of its organizers and spawned new friendships.
In total, about 250 local seniors who were otherwise not likely have received gifts this year will get a little something special.
“I thought this first year we would be able to do 20, maybe 25 seniors matched up," said co-organizer Kyla Rowntree. "We had an outpouring of support from the community and a lot of people wanting to adopt seniors.”
The program was spawned by a simple post made by co-organizer Kayla McQueen on a local Facebook group, asking if Guelph had a gift-giving program for seniors. Rowntree and a third organizer Sabrina Thompson responded to the call.
“Kayla put the post out asking if Guelph had something like this. Sabrina and I both responded saying why don’t we and can we get something going — and here we are,” said Rowntree.
The trio and dozens of volunteers spent three days wrapping the hundreds of gifts that came in. Many of them were simple items, like boxes of chocolates, calendars, hand cream or grippy socks.
“There are lots of children’s toy drives, but we have never heard of something for seniors, that’s why we wanted to start something,” said McQueen on Thursday at the final wrapping party at Village of Riverside Glen.
Wish lists were collected for 89 seniors in the community.
“Some of the items that they were requesting were just unbelievable," said Rowntree. "We had one who just wanted a Big Mac combo, another one just wanted a Christmas Card and another wanted a Johnny Cash CD.”
McQueen added: "one female senior just wanted a firefighter calendar this year, so we’re going to make that happen.”
“Going through the applications was very interesting and it just touched our hearts," said Rowntree.
Because of the outpouring from the community, Adopt-a-Senior organizers have enough gifts left over to support about 250 seniors in total.
“We have also had a ton of monetary donations come in, so we will be able go out and make all of those wish lists possible," said McQueen.
The generosity of the donors has been incredible, said McQueen.
“People worked really hard to make their senior wish list come true,” she said.
Prior to coming together to start the project, the three co-organizers had never met. Through their work together on Adopt-a-Senior, a friendship has blossomed.
“It’s remarkable because we come from different worlds but we’re all meshing together and channelling our energy into something positive,” said Rowntree.
All three co-organizers have had a grandparent or parent in long-term care or nursing home of some sort.
"We have all seen seniors who had no one at Christmas time and we wanted to bridge the gap and bring some cheer,” said Rowntree. “For me, this brings the meaning back to Christmas."