“Sleigh Bells for Seniors Project” expanded this year

For a second year, seniors in Norquay will benefit from the “Sleigh Bells for Seniors Project”, but the area has been extended for this year.

Kaeley Kish is the founding organizer of the project which distributes gifts to seniors in Norquay and at the Health Centre.

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Last year Kish had the idea to give gifts to Norquay seniors who were alone in their homes. And so the Sleigh Bells for Seniors Project was born. It later spawned an offshoot called the Norquay Goodwill Committee, when a group was formed to continue spreading “goodwill” in other ways.

Last year, Sleigh Bells for Seniors handed out 92 gifts in about five hours. The presentations at the Health Centre were done on a different day.

“Our criteria for the gifts is the recipients must be age 60 or older and live by themselves. We also distribute gifts to persons at the Norquay Health Center,” said Kish.

What started as a small idea has snowballed into a larger, more ambitious project for this year, said Kish.

“For this, our second year of the Sleigh Bells for Seniors Project, we are including Hyas and Pelly seniors in addition to Norquay and the Norquay Health Centre residents, and we have 122 seniors registered to receive gifts.”

On December 15 and 16 all the gifts will be distributed with the help of volunteers. One volunteer is Lloyd Smith of Pelly who has a team of horses and a sleigh, the use of which he is volunteering.

“Lloyd Smith helped make the deliveries for us last year, pulling ‘Santa’ in the sleigh. It was such a hit with people last year, and he has said that he will volunteer the use of his sleigh again this year,” said Kish.

“Last year we had 10 to 15 volunteers show up to help us distribute the gifts. We also had two volunteers from the Kamsack Detachment of the RCMP who came to help us. It was quite a sight to see them deliver gifts with their lights flashing. We hope to have their help again this year, if their schedule permits.

“Our distribution team formed a bit of a convoy last year as we worked through town to distribute all the presents,” she said. “We even had coverage by a CTV station last year.”

Kish does most of the organizing on her Facebook page. She has an “Angel Tree,” which is set up at the business called Onyx, a hair, esthetics and massage salon, in Norquay she runs with her mother, Barb Koroluk.

“We put up the tree at our salon at the end of November and have all the names hanging off of the tree on a Christmas ornament. When someone sponsors a senior, they may take the ornament as a keepsake to put on their own tree.

“I posted the names on my Facebook page and people have just scooped them up. Within two weeks I had sponsors for all of the 122 seniors.

“In a wonderful twist, we actually had more people wanting to buy gifts than we had seniors. I have four volunteer helpers who asks each senior what they wish to receive for Christmas, and some of them are shy, and won’t tell us their preference, so we just pick out what we consider to be an appropriate gift.

“People in the community have really warmed up to this project, and with their help, I am able to make it happen. I could not do all this on my own.

“Once I receive the information from my volunteer helpers who canvas the seniors, I post it on Facebook, and my Facebook friends who follow the project volunteer to sponsor the senior.

“My mother has been my best helper, and my father plays the role of Santa. He says the look of joy he sees on the faces of the seniors when they receive their gift is amazing.

“The whole process really changes the way you view things. It’s not the gift that counts. For them, it’s the thought that brings such joy.

“Reading the lists of Christmas gifts that seniors wish to receive is grounding, and the feedback we have gotten is humbling. Some seniors are blown away by the quality of gift they receive,” she said.

The gifts will be wrapped by volunteers on December 14 in time to be distributed. Donations of gift wrap and all the trimmings (cards, bows, tape, gift bags, ribbon, etc.) have poured in, Kish said.

“I didn’t think this project would turn out to be as much of a success as it has. There has been so much outpouring of love. I am so happy to see the community embrace this project, and help me fulfill my wish which is to let the seniors know we haven’t forgotten about them,” Kish concluded.