The joy of giving
Forsyth Township Senior Center secret Santa program still accepting donations
GWINN — Playing secret Santa for an older adult in your area can make a positive impact this holiday season and beyond.
Due to this, the Forsyth Township Senior Center is once again offering its annual secret Santa program, giving area residents a chance to adopt a local senior who they will provide gifts for during the holiday season.
This year, 53 seniors have been adopted, representing the biggest year yet for the program, organizers said.
“Every year it’s gotten bigger and better,” said Avis Ketola, case coordinator at the Forsyth Township Senior Center, noting she feels the program brings joy to those who give and receive each holiday season.
Once a senior is adopted, the adopter receives a letter — usually prior to Black Friday — that maintains confidentiality but gives basic information about the senior and their wants and needs, Ketola said.
“We do our best to send out wishes and wants or needs without them knowing who it is … We send out the letters to the people that have requested to adopt and we try to write a little story sometimes,” she said.
The adopter can then go shopping and drop off the items at the senior center, as staff assembles and delivers the secret Santa items “as close to Christmas day as we can,” Ketola said.
“Most of them do not even know that they are adopted, so it is a surprise,” she said.
It’s a great way to show the adoptees — who may be homebound and/or without friends or family nearby — that they are cared about and appreciated while providing them with items they want and need, organizers said.
“They really can make a big difference,” Ketola said.
Providing area seniors with a holiday surprise is also a great way to thank them for what they’ve provided to their community and nation over the years, Forsyth Township Senior Center social worker Michelle Borrett said.
“Especially the older seniors, the greatest generation, they have served and they have given to their country … it’s just nice to give back to them for giving to our country as much as they have,” she said.
While the time frame to sign up to adopt a specific senior has passed, those who would still like to give are encouraged to donate general essentials, Ketola and Borrett said.
Donations of food, paper products, Ensure and adult incontinence products are helpful, they said, as these items can be expensive — especially for those living on a fixed income — and are always needed.
“If we do give them things like that, it frees up money to do other things,” Ketola said.
Donations of gift cards to gas stations or local stores, such as Larry’s Foods, Synder Drug, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Walmart are also recommended.
“This is another avenue to help them,” Ketola said.
For those looking to give the gift of time, volunteering is another way to give back, they said.
Volunteers are needed for Community Action Alger-Marquette’s Meals on Wheels program, as well as a new CAAM program seeking volunteers to visit a senior at home once a week to enjoy lunch with them, Ketola and Borrett said.
Interested parties can contact CAAM directly at 906-228-6522.
Adults 55 and older can also get involved in the Marquette County Retired Senior Volunteer Program, which can connect them with a volunteer opportunity that’s right for them, they said. For more information on RSVP, call 906-315-2658 or 906-315-2607.
Donations can be dropped off at the Forsyth Township Senior Center, which is located at 165 N. Maple St., Gwinn. Call 906-346-9862 for more information on the Forsyth Township Senior Center.
Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.