Five years ago, when Kayleigh Reynolds was visiting her grandmother in a seniors' home at Christmas, she was stunned to learn many of the residents had little to no family to visit them around the holidays.
A nurse told her it was up to the nursing home to provide the residents with Christmas cheer.
"What they received was basically only what the nursing home gave to them. And that broke my heart," Reynolds told CBC News in a recent interview.
After her conversation with the nurse, Reynolds, the owner of the St. John's-based business Maid to Sparkle, created the initiative Santa to a Senior.
"I reached out to the director and asked if there was anything I could do to help. And Santa to a Senior was born."
Providing care and cheer
Now celebrating its fifth year, Santa to a Senior provides care packages and gifts to residents of seniors' homes.
In 2021, they helped 28 seniors. The number has risen every year — she thinks it'll be more than 30 this year — and so have the donations and partnerships.
"It seems to have gotten a lot of momentum as the years go on," Reynolds said.
For the last three years, Santa to a Senior has worked with Seniors N.L. to provide the service, and businesses reach out with donations of money, items and their own time.
Donations include essentials like toothpaste or shampoo as well as leisure items like games, puzzles and books. The Brownies section of the Girl Guides of Canada have written letters and made art to send to the seniors in the past.
The reason for the season
Reynolds credits her grandmother, Margaret Parrott — one of the most giving people she has ever met, she says — as a driving force of the initiative. When Reynolds explained the idea to her, Margaret was supportive and excited.
"She loved it, she's a big helper of everybody," said Reynolds.
After her grandmother died in 2020, Reynolds renamed the fundraiser Margaret's Santa to Senior in her honour.
Reynolds says the drive is her favourite part of Christmas. Knowing she's part of someone's happy Christmas morning is "everything" to her, she said.
She remembers one recipient who waited to open her bag so she had something to open on Christmas morning.
"That was the tearjerker for me. That was the moment I knew that this is what I was supposed to do."
The deadline for donating to Santa to a Senior is Saturday.