Secret Santa bears gifts for residents at nursing homes, Arc residences

Provided photo (Left) – Hundreds of bags of gifts have been filled by a Secret Santa for residents of local nursing homes and Arc residences. Photo by Ginny Kropf (Right) – Jenney Mulrain, left, Human Resource director at Orchard Rehabilitation, and Debbie Fuller look at boxes full of personal hygiene items to be given to residents with very limited funds.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 18 December 2022 at 8:43 am

MEDINA – Giving to people in need has become a way of life for one local woman, who only wants to be known as a “Secret Santa.”

This is the 10th year the woman has solicited gifts and donations to fill Christmas bags for residents of Orchard Rehabilitation and Nursing Center (Orchard Manor), the North Wing at Medina Memorial Hospital and the Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Albion. This year, she will also do the Arc residences in Albion and Medina – totaling 250 seniors, plus developmentally disabled residents.

All year, the woman creates an event on social media, where family and friends can donate to her cause. She posts it on Facebook and asks all her friends to share it with their friends. She said she has had people respond from all over the country, including California, Las Vegas and Florida.

“I swear them to secrecy,” she said. “My mother died last year, and giving without getting something in return was what she taught me.”

The first year the Secret Santa did this, she went to the Office for the Aging and asked if they knew any seniors who needed help.

“I supplied gifts to one man and one woman,” she said. “The next year, I did two men and two women, then five the third year.”

When the Office for the Aging told Secret Santa there were so many seniors who could use gifts, that was when she really expanded her giving. She added the nursing homes and North Wing, and this year she reached out to the Arc GLOW to see if there were residents in their homes who didn’t many gifts for Christmas.

When people sign up on Facebook to participate, Secret Santa sends them a first name and tag number. Then they shop and drop off the items to her, where she and her “elves” fill the gift bags. People have until Dec. 11 to purchase their gifts and get them to Secret Santa. With the monetary donations, she goes shopping for suitable gifts.

Items she encourages people to buy include linens, cleaning supplies and pet supplies.

Leann Donovan at the Office for the Aging and Melissa Cotter from Arc GLOW have cooperated with Secret Santa to accomplish her mission.

A donation from a corporate sponsor enabled Secret Santa to buy 30 personal hygiene kits for residents of the nursing facilities.

“Senior citizens are the ones who tend to be forgotten,” Secret Santa said.

With help of her “elves,” boxes and boxes of personal hygiene products were delivered this week to the facilities, followed by delivery of the gift bags the following night. The gift bags will be distributed on Christmas and the personal hygiene items will be given to residents as needed.

At Orchard Rehabilitation there are 48 residents who wouldn’t ordinarily get a gift at Christmas, said Human Resource director Jenney Mulrain. Many of those residents don’t have family members.

The Secret Santa is determined that every resident of a nursing facility in Orleans County will receive a gift.

“After all, this is Christmas,” she said.