July 20th, 2024

Stocking Stuffers campaign ensures seniors will have a gift under the tree

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 6, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

There’s no better time for giving than Christmas, and London Drugs is encouraging shoppers to do just that and lift the spirits of many senior citizens who may be struggling, particularly with the cost of living on the rise.

London Drugs in Lethbridge, as well as stores across Canada, are collecting Christmas gifts through the Stocking Stuffers for Seniors campaign. The campaign, which began in stores Canada-wide in 2015, has helped provide Christmas gifts for hundreds of seniors each year in Lethbridge, and often may mean the difference between something or nothing under a senior’s tree Christmas morning.

Chris Mabie, manager of Lethbridge London Drugs, says the store used to participate in Toys for Tots, and while he acknowledges the importance of that campaign, it was apparent that something was needed for seniors, as well.

“What we found was, a lot of times seniors were forgotten,” Mabie says. “They’re quite often waking up Christmas morning to no gifts.”

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada’s senior population is projected to grow by 68 per cent over the next 20 years, and many older Canadians are grappling with the challenges of maintaining their budgets amidst soaring prices. And the Office of the Seniors Advocate in British Columbia reports that 84 per cent of low-income seniors report running out of money to buy food regularly, making it evident that senior citizens are feeling the pinch of economic pressures.

“The holiday season is a time for giving, and it’s essential that we extend our generosity to those who need it most,” says Clint Mahlman, president and chief operating officer of London Drugs. “Our Stocking Stuffers for Seniors initiative aims to provide essential support and bring joy to the lives of seniors who may be experiencing financial hardship. It is about letting them know that they are not forgotten over the holidays, and that their community truly cares about their well-being.”

Mabie says the generosity of, and participation by, Lethbridge and area residents has grown over the years, and now hundreds of seniors are receiving gifts each year.

“Every year it gets a little more,” Mabie says. “I would say when we first started it was about 200, and now we’re up to about 600.”

Mabie notes there are many “faithful” customers who have generously participated since the start of the campaign.

“It’s a wonderful response we get from the community.”

Customers can make a meaningful impact by visiting a nearby London Drugs location and selecting a tag from the Stocking Stuffers for Seniors Christmas tree, each bearing a senior’s gift wish. Customers are encouraged to purchase the item listed on the tag and return it to the same location, and gifts will be delivered to seniors in time for Christmas.

Mabie points out the gifts don’t need to be purchased at London Drugs, only returned to the store so they can be distributed among seniors living at seniors’ homes in Lethbridge and area who are partnered with the store. Mabie adds seniors who don’t live in any of the partner residences can call Age Care Columbia and get put on a list, so they, too, will be included in the Stocking Stuffers program.

“For many local seniors in long-term care, they’ve celebrated Christmas every year of their lives, but no longer have family to celebrate with,” says Tom Arnold, executive director of Eldercare Foundation in B. C. “It’s amazing to see their wonder and surprise on Christmas morning when a gift arrives from the Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program, and how decades of happy holiday memories come flooding back to them.”

Arnold says long-term care accounts for 80 per cent of a senior’s after-tax income, and as prices of basic goods rise, so does the number of seniors in care who no longer have enough pension money left over each month to cover personal care needs.

“So, stocking stuffers can really boost quality of life for seniors all year long,” Arnold says.

Lethbridge and area residents can pick up a gift tag from London Drugs until this weekend, but must ensure the gift has been returned to the store no later than Dec. 13.

“The seniors that get these gifts really do appreciate it,” Mabie says.

Follow @DShurtzHerald on Twitter

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