Nobody can remember when it started, but Rolla Presbyterian Manor’s Secret Santa tradition continues to spread joy to healthcare residents every December.
“We noticed how sad some of our (healthcare) residents were who did not have any family to celebrate Christmas,” said Ann Caudill, executive director. That’s how the idea of the Secret Santa program started. “This way they received a few presents from ‘Santa.’”
People within the community either purchase gifts valued around $40 or donate $40 for Presbyterian Manor employees to purchase the gifts. Each year, letters requesting donations are sent out to the Chamber and other individuals and local businesses that have donated in the past. Before the community’s “elves” do their shopping, they check with each resident to see what’s on their wish list.
“We try to visit with the resident and find out what they really want,” said Joelle Freeland, marketing director. “Sometimes it’s just lipstick or perfume that they don’t normally get. We try to make it personal, not just a stock item like pajamas.”
Once purchased, the gifts are put in a Christmas bag for Santa to hand out on Christmas morning.
“What I enjoy most about this is hearing about the fun the residents had, the enjoyment they received and how it makes them happy that someone has thought of them on Christmas. It’s another way to connect with the resident as family. And that is big here in this community,” said Joelle.
It’s a tradition that the community has been doing since anyone can remember, and will continue for years to come because “We are all still kids at heart,” said Ann Caudill.
PHOTOS: Santa Don, Santa's helper Elf Marla Merenghi, and Phyllis Hutchison (left); Maryls Sinnott with one of secret Santa’s many helpers, Ted Glenn (right).