You can be Santa to a senior, thanks to an ongoing initiative by Timeless Harmony Salon and Spa.
For the fourth year in a row, owner Katie Gilligan is collecting presents to give to each of the 70 residents living at Newmarket’s Eagle Terrace Long-term Care Home.
“Every year it means a lot. Eagle Terrace (seniors), they don’t have a ton of people that come to visit them or do stuff on a regular basis. Some of them do, but not all of them,” she said.
Amid the pandemic its been even more important, Gilligan said, and that was seen in the response to the program in 2020.
"Last year with the pandemic, we had such a huge outpouring of people wanting to help that we were able to give every single staff member a gift as well, which was awesome," she said. "You could feel that everybody needed to do something because they were just devastated at how the seniors (were impacted), it must have been tough.”
To help bring them some holiday cheer, she sets up a tree in her salon, decorated with the names and wish lists of each of the residents.
Members of the community are then encouraged to take one of the names and get a Christmas present for that senior.
“They ask for very little but it’s stuff that they need and it makes them very happy,” Gilligan said.
She said a couple years ago she had a gift giver who was confused by the item on the wish list: a box of Kleenex.
Gilligan said she told him about how they only get small, square hospital-issued boxes and the resident wanted a real box of Kleenex.
“Then this gentleman came back from Costco with two of these huge things of 18 boxes of Kleenex, it was so cute,” she said.
Participants often like to add something extra to the presents like a Christmas card and a few bonus items, Gilligan said. The only thing that’s not allowed is food due to allergies or dietary restrictions.
This year, the tree went up on Nov. 17 and Gilligan said by the afternoon on Nov. 18, 20 of the names had already been claimed.
For those who want to pitch in this holiday season, you can visit the salon, located at Leslie Street and Gorham Street, to pick a name.
Once you’ve done your shopping, you put the present in a gift bag rather than wrapping paper as Eagle Terrace staff have to go through them to make sure they’re safe.
Gifts are dropped off at Timeless Harmony before Dec. 20, when Gilligan and her volunters will deliver them to the long-term care home.
According to Gilligan, this allows time for the presents to be quarantined in a room at the home before they are distributed to the residents on Christmas Eve.