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'Santa for Seniors' program brings holiday cheer to older St. Louis residents

"We as a group look forward to it every year. We had the opportunity to put our faith into motion," Bob Buck from Ascension Catholic Church in Chesterfield, said.

ST. LOUIS — The holidays can be an isolating time for anyone, including seniors.

The Guardian Angel Settlement Association is teaming up with a group of volunteers to bring holiday cheer to older residents living alone or in assisted living facilities.

The “Santa for Seniors” program brings gifts to seniors who may be struggling during the holidays.

As volunteers gathered the gifts together for delivery, 5 On Your Side spoke with Bob Buck from Ascension Catholic Church in Chesterfield.

“Behind the scenes are weeks and weeks of preparation,” he said.

First, the Guardian Angels ask local seniors for their Christmas wish lists. Then, each senior is paired with a community member who wants to buy the gifts off their list.

The gifts are wrapped and gathered by staff.

Members of the Chesterfield church volunteer to act as Santa's elves, packing goodie bags with a holiday hen, other foods and household items.

Then, volunteers load up their cars with gifts and roll out to spread some Christmas cheer.

“Being able to share is important and being able to give is important. But I walk away from here today realizing that I’ve received something more than I’ve given,” Buck said. “We as a group look forward to it every year. We had the opportunity to put our faith into motion.”

The program has been around for at least two decades. Some volunteers come back year after year.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years,” Buck said.

Some recipients, like Tamya Smith, are experiencing the program for the first time.

With all the challenges brought by the past few years, the program is especially crucial.

“I lost my husband to COVID so my life has drastically changed. Thank God for the Guardian Angels, that’s the perfect name for that organization,” Smith said. “I thank God I’m still here and that I lived through COVID.”

Some of the most meaningful gifts given by the Guardian Angels don't come wrapped or tied in a bow.

“They’ll help you with your utilities, help you with your clothing and household things and food. I had never been to a pantry before,” Smith said.

Smith has a message for seniors who may be going through a tough time this holiday season.

“Don’t give up. I’ve been through a whole lot. I don’t even have time to tell it… God sent Guardian Angels to me,” she said.

Smith said she looks forward to paying it forward in the future.

“I’m ready to get back on my feet, I want to be a giver. I’m looking forward to that opportunity to give back, not to be on the receiving end,” she said.


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