Mel Mitchell photo One of the 28 gift bags that will be stuffed with a mix of baked goods, toiletries, games and blankets for the residents of Deni House. The Deni House Secret Santa has enjoyed its best year to date and looks to expand its scope to the Cariboo Memorial Hospital next year.

Deni House Santa exceeds its goals thanks to community support

The Deni House Secret Santa if fully stocked and ready to distribute.

After a wellspring of support from the lakecity community, the Deni House Secret Santa has more than enough goodies to stuff its gift bags with for 2018.

Deni House is located adjacent to the Cariboo Memorial Hospital and offers residential care for seniors both permanently and temporarily after medical care. While well-looked after, these elders were often lonely at Christmas, until the Deni House Secret Santa was started.

Brenda Thompson and Lucy Morton are some of the founding members and ringleaders of this Secret Santa. Thompson’s own late mother was a resident of Deni House for many years and gave her the initial inspiration to start the project.

“I saw it in the paper, or read it online, that some ladies were doing a gift basket for Retirement Concepts and I thought, well, instead of one basket for one person let’s see if we can do gift bags for everyone in Deni House, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” Thompson said.

Each Secret Santa gift bag they put together is filled with the basics from socks, toiletries and spending money for them to go out and enjoy their day if they’re able. Thompson said that they ask for these general donations to avoid people agonizing over whether or not the recipient will like it.

Morton said that Thompson started out with two gift bags four years ago that she split into four and distributed to the seniors. Since then it has only grown and this year has been their best to date, according to Thompson.

Read More: Deni House Secret Santa provides comfort for seniors

Currently, all that remains to be purchased or made are some blankets, which members of a local seniors home are knitting, and the MP3 players and headphones Thompson requested in her previous interview with the Tribune. However, Thompson said that, due to the expensive nature of these items, she’s not expecting individual members of the public to shoulder the cost and instead hopes there will be enough cash donations to pool towards them.

“Other than that I think we have pretty much everything but if people want to keep donating the same stuff then, whatever, it will come in handy for next year or if more people come into Deni House before Christmas, which I’m sure there will be,” Thompson said.

Her initial goal for this year was 28 gift bags to match the 28 beds in the facility, roughly 18 of which are currently full. While she hasn’t stuffed all the bags yet, she said it looks like she’s met her 28-bag goal, with a little to spare.

Since she last talked to the Tribune, Thompson said the community has been just phoning her and asking her what they can donate and where they can donate gifts from her list. Local businesses and groups have also gotten involved donating money or items such as throw blankets like the Williams Lake Lionesses Club did this year.

She has also gotten a few lakecity locals on board to make baked goods for the gift bags closer to Christmas time. In addition to the individual gifts, Thompson said they will also be placing facility gifts, like movies and board games, under the Christmas tree that all residents can enjoy.

Thompson believes that the media coverage the Secret Santa received this year helped a lot and is thankful for all the support it’s received this year.

Groups and individuals that often help out at the Children’s Hospital also chose, for a change of pace, to donate their time to Deni House this year.

“It’s really refreshing to see that people still have a heart in this community, especially for the seniors,” Thompson said. “It’s going to make for a lot of people, in Deni House, very happy this Christmas.”

Already planning for the future, Thompson said she’s hoping to talk with the administration of the Cariboo Memorial Hospital about potentially expanding the program to patients with no immediate relatives. While this is still only in the conception phase, she hopes to be able to broaden the scope of the Secret Santa, while maintaining the community support.

“Everything has been just phenomenal, really good response from the people in the community, I couldn’t thank them enough,” Thompson said. “It’s show me just how much heart our community has. For the seniors it means being like a child again, being remembered, showing them that somebody out there still thinks about them still appreciates them, that they’re not alone.”

Thompson would like to thank everyone who donated to the Secret Santa this year whether it was through cheque, cash, a gift or the essentials the seniors need.

She said that she’d love to see repeat donations next year along with new donors, preferably from the younger generations, getting into the mix with both donating to and organizing the charity.

The Deni House Secret Santa will take place on Christmas Day, with Thompson and other volunteers distributing the gifts in secret on Christmas Eve.

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