A West Island initiative that brings Christmas gifts to isolated seniors is experiencing exponential growth as it enters its third year.
What started with a Kirkland mother making the holidays happy for hundreds of people has grown into a force of nature that brings joy to thousands.
“Honestly, this year has exploded,” Alana Edwards, founder of Santa told Senior MTL.
It’s the third year for the mother of three who goes out of her way to cheer on West Island’s seniors during the holiday season.
Edwards has installed Christmas trees in approximately 10 different West Island locations. Each is covered in labels with gift requests from local seniors living in residences.
READ MORE: West Islanders need your help giving Christmas gifts to seniors in need
People stop by, grab a tag, buy a modest gift for an isolated old man who may not have even received one, take it to one of the multiple drop-off points, and Edwards takes care of the rest.
Café Coco and Bean in Beaconsfield just became the last place to welcome one of the trees.
“The initiative he took is fabulous, … especially coming out of the pandemic, or even in the pandemic, knowing that there are residents alone and that they cannot celebrate Christmas or the holidays with their families,” said Candice Najum, the co-owner of the coffee.
Najum said she and her family took tags and will buy a warm blanket, scarf and gourmet cookies for the local seniors. Other locations include Provigo in Kirkland, Calzones in Saint Charles, and Lubrification DDO in St. Jean.
READ MORE: Montreal’s ‘Santa to a Senior’ initiative returns to West Island for the second year
While Edwards’ generous spirit has not changed, the scope of the operation has.
“I really depend on the community this year not to disappoint any of these seniors,” he told Global News.
An empty storefront donated by Broccolini has been converted into Edwards’ new wrapper headquarters.
“It’s better than my living room,” she said, recounting how sections of her own home had been overrun with gifts over the past two years.
You will need the extra space.
The first year, he collected gifts for about 500 seniors in five different homes. Last year there were 1,000 older people in 13 households. This year, 2,100 seniors will receive gifts at 26 different residences.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “There isn’t even a word I can use to describe the feeling anymore because it’s just overwhelming, but it’s overwhelmingly positive.”
In no time, dozens of tables at your wrapping station will be covered in gifts. Fortunately she has a group of volunteers who help her wrap them up.
Still, it’s a lot of work for a mother of three, including a newborn. For Edwards, it’s all worth it.
She specifically recalls giving a gift to an isolated elder that first year.
“She looked at me and said, ‘This is the first gift I’ve received in years.’ She started crying and then I started crying, ”Edwards said.
She says those moments are the reason she continues to expand the initiative. In the years to come, she hopes to give gifts to seniors for other occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.
Visit Santa to a Senior MTL’s Facebook page to find out how you can help her bring that joy to someone this year.