Santa for Seniors


As Christmas time rolls around, people sometimes become caught up in holiday cheer and forget that not everyone gets to experience the love and family connections that the winter months bring. This year, the “Y” Cabinet is sponsoring a holiday charity service project, Santa for Seniors.

The program was started in 2004 by K-9 Deputy Jimmy Allred when he encountered a woman in his grandmother’s nursing home who was waiting for her family to come to take her home for the holidays, but she had no family to visit her.

“It ripped my heart out. It tore me up. The following year, my boss, Major McGuire at the time, and I got to talking and decided to do something for these seniors, so we went and found two people, seniors that we knew were going to be alone for Christmas. The next year, I thought about it earlier, and I raised some money and got Tammy Bryant from Parks and Rec to give me a list of names of people she knew were going to be alone at Christmas,” Allred said. “We went from 10 to 80 the next year. I think this year we’re pushing over 200 people that we’re doing this for. Each year it’s blossomed, and the program has become self-sufficient. People just want to do things for our seniors. The program was started to basically honor my grandmother, and that’s where we’re at now.”

Santa for Seniors targets seniors either living alone or in an assisted living facility that have no family members nearby or have no family that can provide for them during the Christmas season.

The charity is not income based; it is based solely on whether or not the seniors have someone to care for them during this time.

“I hope our Darlington community will thoughtfully provide items to the elderly of our larger community at a time of year when they may be missing loved ones and feeling very alone. Our small acts of kindness may be a blessing to them throughout the year,” Cooper Head of House Jill Babb said.

Currently, Darlington has committed to sponsor 46 seniors, and several members of the community have volunteered to help in delivering the care packages.

Sponsors are given a “wish list” of items from each senior being sponsored and are asked to spend just enough to cover those items asked for. Some examples of items might include nightgowns, body wash, lotion, socks, shoes, gift cards, sweatshirts, and more.

“I’ve been in the sheriff’s office for 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff, I’ve had to put up with a lot of bad people, but to participate in this program, to go out and visit a senior that’s all alone, has nobody, and go by and spend a few minutes with them to make them smile, it’s all about making people smile. If you can go by and give someone that’s alone all year at least a little bit of happiness, then it’s all worthwhile. You can feel it in your chest. It makes your heart warm. God only gives us so much time here, and if we can leave it better than it was when we were here, if we can leave a mark that makes it better, then I think that’s what we ought to do,” Allred said.