Amanda Cota, Stephanie Combs and Alysha Aubin

From left, Amanda Cota, Stephanie Combs and Alysha Aubin trim the Santa for Seniors tree at Kinney Drugs at Executive Drive on Shelburne Road.

For years they were Santa’s helpers, bringing Christmas to generations of kids. Now, later in life, they may be forgotten and alone during the holidays.

“They” are our seniors, and to make sure they are not forgotten during the Christmas season, Home Instead Senior Care sponsors the Be a Santa to a Senior program.

Be a Santa to a Senior started more than 15 years ago and since then over 1.2 million gifts have been given to 700,000 seniors.

Tim LaBeau, owner of the Shelburne Home Instead Senior Care office, said they expect to give more than 1,000 gifts to deserving seniors in the area during December.

“The Be a Santa to a Senior program is all about including seniors in the joy of the holiday season,” said LaBeau. “A simple gift shows them they are a loved and vital member of our community.”

The organizers of the program emphasize how easy it is to participate. Just visit a participating Kinney Drug store. Area locations include Kinney Drug stores at 10212 Route 116 in Hinesburg, 1653 Williston Road in South Burlington, 47 Executive Drive in Shelburne and 308 Shelburne Road in Burlington and their stores in Vergennes, Essex Junction, Milton, Morrisville and St. Albans.

Inside each store, there are Christmas trees decorated with ornaments, each with the first name or code and gift suggestions. Choose a gift and return it to the store with the ornament attached.

There’s no need to wrap the present. Volunteers will wrap and deliver the gifts to the seniors in time for the holidays.

The trees will be up at the Kinney Drug locations until Dec. 4.

“While it may seem like a small act of kindness, it can really make a difference for someone this holiday season,” said LaBeau. “Watching seniors open the gifts they received through Be a Santa to a Senior and seeing the smiles and appreciation on their faces is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.”

Home Instead Senior Care and Kinney Drug have partnered with several senior care agencies and facilities including: “Age Well, Genesis, Green Mountain Nursing Home, St Joseph’s Home, UVM – Home Health and Hospice, Elderwood Nursing Center, Birchwood Terrace Rehab and Healthcare, Our Lady of Providence, Cathedral Square, AllenWood and Pillsbury Manor South, Ethan Allen Residence, Converse Home, Sterling House, Allen Brook Memory Care, St. Albans Healthcare and Rehab Center, CarePartners Adult Day Care Center, Lamoille Day Heath Service and Copley Terrace. The agencies have identified seniors who will receive gifts through the program this year,” Home Instead stated in a release.

Some of the types of gifts that LaBeau said the seniors appreciate are winter coats, hats and blankets, history books on World War II and the Civil War, shampoo, soap and hand cream. “Quite a few donors give us socks or blankets, he said.

“They love getting the gifts,” said LaBeau. “It’s great to watch someone be so delighted.”

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