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'Be a Santa to a Senior' Returns for Holiday Season
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:19PM / Thursday, November 17, 2022
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Wish lists for seniors at the Plant Connector on Main Street in North Adams, part of the "Be a Santa to a Senior" program in Berkshire County this year.

'Be a Santa' trees are located in all three Stop & Shop stores in North Adams and Pittsfield, as well as Wild Oats in Williamstown and the Plant Connector in North Adams. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The "Be a Santa to a Senior" program has returned to Berkshire County, giving residents a chance to provide a customized gift to an older adult who could use some holiday cheer.  

Last week, trees went up in five retail locations with ornaments that have a name and wish list on them.  To be a Santa, shoppers can return an unwrapped gift to the location with the ornament attached.  

Ornaments will be available until Dec. 5 so that the presents can be delivered in time for the holidays.

Administered by Home Instead Senior Care, the program has provided more than 2 million gifts to seniors across the nation since 2003. It brightens folks' days with a present and a smiling face when it is delivered to them, say organizers.

"The program is based around the idea of 'giving trees' and it's focused on seniors, so we've always partnered with organizations in the community -- senior centers, Councils on Aging, nursing homes, Meals on Wheels, that kind of thing -- and we asked them to think of seniors within their realm who were in need, for one, but the second thing was also people who were on their own or isolated during the holiday time," said Donna Smith, franchise owner of the Pittsfield Home Instead office.

"And so the giving trees obviously are an opportunity to give a gift to these people but they have typically in the past come with a delivery also so it's not only gifts but a visit at the holiday time. So that's why we think about isolated people as well."

County residents have been Santas to seniors for almost 20 years. The program took a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has returned this year.

Coordinators hope to collect 500 gifts for more than 100 local seniors this year. Commonly requested gifts are comfortable clothing and basic items such as socks, hats and gloves, snacks, and puzzle books.

Smith reported that people have been very generous, often purchasing multiple items from the wish lists. Gift givers will sometimes include a handmade card or a drawing from a child, as personal touches are always appreciated by the recipients.

"I just want to say how much we at Home Instead in the Berkshires are grateful to our community because even every year, though we've been doing it for so long, I'm blown away by their generosity," she said.

"When we first started doing it and we had gift suggestions, I thought people would pick one gift out of the suggestions, but people buy all of the gift suggestions. Their generosity touches my heart and it means a lot. Even though they don't get to see who it goes to, please know it's appreciated."

Wild Oats in Williamstown and The Plant Connector in North Adams are new program partners this year.  Giving trees can be found at:

  • Stop & Shop Supermarket, 660 Merrill Road, Pittsfield
  • Stop & Shop Supermarket, 1 Dan Fox Drive, Pittsfield
  • Stop & Shop Supermarket, 876 State Road, North Adams
  • Wild Oats Market, 320 Main St., Williamstown
  • The Plant Connector, 73 Main St., North Adams
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