Lillian Fast is repeatedly moved by the touching stories she hears from recipients of the London Drugs Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program.
“One year, a senior asked for a pair of socks, and one Oh Henry! chocolate bar. But, the customer who selected his tag gifted him an entire bag of socks and a box of Oh Henry! chocolate bars,” recalled Fast, store manager of the Langley London Drugs for the past three years.
“The senior was so delighted, he called the store to tell us the story firsthand – as it made his year. It is stories like this that show the effort our community go to, to ensure local seniors feel supported over the holiday season.”
Fast has been with London Drugs for 31 years and been involved with Stocking Stuffers for Seniors since its inception.
“The program is special because it takes so little to make such a big difference in a senior’s life,” she said.
The program, which this year runs until Friday, Dec. 8, aims to provide essential support and bring joy to the lives of seniors who may be experiencing financial hardship – whether they’re living independently or in assisted living facility.
Participation is easy. Donors are encouraged to visit the store and select a tag from the Stocking Stuffers for Seniors Christmas tree. Each tag bears a local senior’s gift wish.
People are then asked to purchase the item listed on the tag and return it to the same store before the Dec. 8 deadline.
The Langley store will be providing more 800 gifts to seniors in the Langley area this year, Fast said, noting this year the need is huge – much more than in past years.
She noted that people are really strapped for essentials given the current economy – especially hard hit are seniors on fixed incomes.
To help lift the spirits of these seniors through the holidays, Fast recommended items such as lap blankets, toques, playing cards, or other items seniors wouldn’t normally be able to buy themselves.
“I have had the pleasure of speaking with many seniors who have come into the store after Christmas to show off a scarf they have been given, or talk about how they only asked for a pair of socks but received six pairs of socks plus a bunch of other goodies,” Fast recounted.
They had one senior home receive so many blankets one year that the staff called to let Fast know how they loved all the different colours and designs, and to share that each senior had a cozy blanket to use.
London Drugs president Clint Mahlman called the current demand disturbing, citing 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 these economic pressures.
“Our staff regularly receive phone calls from seniors, and personal visits in store from residents who want to thank us for the gifts,” said Fast.
“One senior visited the store with the greeting card that was presented to them alongside their gift – it was signed by a child, and they were so touched by this – especially since that child had the same name as they did. They loved it.”
The holiday season is a time for giving, and it’s essential that people extend their generosity to those who need it most. Fast said the London Drugs’ Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program is just one initiative aims at letting seniors know they are not forgotten during the holidays, and that their community cares about their well-being.
London Drugs has been supporting seniors over the holidays for more than 20 years, but Stocking Stuffers for Seniors officially began network wide in 2015, and has since helped more than 75,000 seniors.
For more information about Stocking Stuffers for Seniors, people can visit the Langley store at 64th Avenue and 202nd Street, or go online to londondrugs.com.