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"Be a Santa to a Senior" program aims to make sure no one is left forgotten this holiday season

Program aims to make sure no one is left forgotten this holiday season
Program aims to make sure no one is left forgotten this holiday season 03:50

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — The holiday season is upon us, and for many that's a time of joy and gathering together. But many senior citizens may feel isolated or lonely during the season.

"They're oftentimes the last people we think about," said John Stuck, co-owner of Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis. "They just don't have anybody, or they are in facilities that we know they're not getting visits, or they are not even leaving during the holidays to visit family."

One of Stuck's greatest joys is the company's annual "Be A Santa to a Senior" program, which allows shoppers to brighten the holiday for those in need by picking up personalized gifts for older adults, who they adopt through displays at local stores, including select Lunds & Byerlys.

There are sixteen "Be A Santa to a Senior" trees across the area. The wish lists aren't filled with luxury items but basic needs like shirts, blankets, and pillows.

"Shampoo, soap, shaving cream, postage stamps, things that are pretty modest," said Stuck.

Those asks for basic items show how many seniors are struggling. The program is expected to serve 2,500 older adults this season.

"The need is endless," explained Stuck.

So much so that, several years ago, Stuck called in firefighters to assist in delivering the gifts for this growing population in need.

"Firefighters are responding to EMS calls in this community many of them responding to these facilities that these gifts are going to. And trying to help connect them to a resource that will keep them more resilient. This process really helps reinforce that resiliency within those communities and firefighters love to be people who solve problems," said Steve Koering, fire chief for the city of St. Louis Park.

Loneliness is a problem that can only be solved one interaction at a time.

"We need to keep this population whole, happy, and resilient," said Koering.

"The gift of having a visit from somebody. That's what's important and that's what my goal is with this program," said Stuck.

"When Santa walks in the front door of the senior living facility and drops a bounty of gifts in that facility, it's amazing," said Koering.

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