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Adopt-a-Grandparent project spreads holiday cheer to local seniors 

ChristmasAdopt-a-Grandparent project spreads holiday cheer to local seniors 

The ninth annual Adopt-a-Grandparent campaign is sharing the joys of Christmas with seniors in Paris and Brantford.

In 2013, Susan Ritchie and her family decided they wanted to try to give back. 

“Christmas in a nursing home can be a very sad time,” she said. “We tried to think of ways that we could cheer up people living in those spaces. Our goal was 10 gifts and after I called some friends to see if they wanted to join us, we ended up having 50 gifts. It seemed to really catch fire after that and it just kept doubling and doubling.”

After starting the project, Ritchie created a Facebook group to share with others in the community. The group has over 600 members and continues to grow each year. 

This year, the group came together to raise money for 400 gifts for local seniors. 

“Everybody is just so on board, supportive, encouraging and wanting to participate so I couldn’t be more grateful,” Ritchie said. “This is our biggest year yet and that’s thanks to everyone involved. I couldn’t do this without the ongoing support from donors to volunteer shoppers and gift wrappers. It really is amazing to see everyone come together.”

The gifts go to a number of different locations in Paris and Burford, including three nursing homes and three subsidized seniors’ buildings. 

“In the beginning, we started out initially wanting to focus on people who didn’t have family and thought that we needed to focus on them thinking that we had limited resources,” the founder said. “As it has grown, and in talking to the nursing home staff, they said to us, every single person needs to experience the joy of getting a gift at Christmas. Now, we use their guidance, they tell us what they want to or where it’s needed.”

While the group’s campaign has come to a close for this year, Ritchie encourages others to start similar senior-outreach projects in their own communities at the holidays and throughout the year.

“With a pandemic, it’s definitely difficult for seniors to live and if we can provide the small little things that are purposeful and helpful, that’s great,” she said. “I’ve learned through this process that as people age, they go back in their minds a little bit more to their childhood, they spend more time thinking about their past. Christmas can be a very sad thing because they feel like they’re missing out on a lot of the people that they knew and loved and the experience of Christmas morning. I feel it is very important to continue doing this because this is something that really does improve the mental health of the seniors in a way that we don’t think about. We think about Christmas as being for children and forget that the seniors really would wish to be a part of things and maybe kind of get forgotten.”

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