As the weather starts to cool and the last leaves fall from the trees, a group of residents have begun planning for a Christmas program for Charlestown’s elderly. Christmas can be a very sad and lonely time of year for the needy, elderly shut-in. While the rest of us may be gift giving, card writing and caught up in the tinsel and glitter, there are others for whom Christmas is just another lonely day. In Charlestown, however, residents remember the true meaning of the Christmas season. Through Townie Santa, elderly, needy shut-ins who might otherwise be alone or forgotten, receive a visit from Santa, who could be anyone, but represents everyone, and lets the person know, yes, we remember you.
In its 28th year, Townie Santa, through donations and the efforts of volunteers, provides many of Charlestown’s elderly shut-ins with a hot turkey dinner and gifts on Christmas Day. Townie Santa was born from a conversation between four Charlestown residents in November 1982, centering around the idea that something should be done for the shut-ins. In less than one month’s time, this group expanded, money was raised, meals cooked and 48 baskets were delivered. The four probably never anticipated that their discussion would be so contagious.
Townie Santa has a unique way of drawing residents together who may not otherwise share similar interests. One reason for the attraction, states a committee member, is the simple fact that Townie Santa is a good cause. Another reason may be that Charlestown community responsibility of taking care of one’s own. Or, more importantly, it may be the joy one receives from giving – something too personal for words. Whatever the reason, the number of volunteers grows with each passing year.
Townie Santa welcomes back a faithful contingent each year and expands with new faces from all parts of Charlestown. Some of them pack the gift baskets, others deliver them and others do the work behind the scenes. Last year, there were volunteers from as young as 6 to over 75 years of age and almost 300 people donated either time, money, gifts or services.
Letters are sent to merchants, businesses and organizations within and affecting Charlestown, seeking contributions to the Townie Santa fun. Many individual Charlestown residents also choose to contribute monetary donations to the effort. All donations are publicly acknowledged in the Patriot-Bridge, however, as many as 10 percent of those who contribute wish to remain anonymous, donating just for the sake of Christmas. In 1982, the Townie Santa fund was approximately $1,000, but the funds have grown substantially since that time. All the money received, with the exception of postage costs, goes directly to the gift baskets.
The selection of the names of recipients for a Christmas package is not an enviable or easy task. There is a screening committee who researches the names that are submitted and determines who will receive a basket. Those who are considered eligible are persons over 60 years of age who are shut-in with limited finances and family contact. Despite the screening committee’s hard work, there is always someone else who also deserves a basket.
“You never get everyone,” said a committee member. “You often hear later that we missed someone, but that’s through no fault of the screening committee. This is why we ask the cooperation of agencies and residents in submitting names – and we are asking that the names be submitted by Friday, Dec. 18, to allow us an opportunity to finalize the list of recipients before it gets too close to the day of delivery.”
If you know of someone who would benefit from a visit from Townie Santa, please take a moment to fill out the coupon elsewhere on this page so that the person may be considered for a visit from Santa.
This year, Townie Santa continues the tradition of bringing Christmas cheer to Charlestown’s elderly who have limited finances and family contact. The deliveries will take place on Christmas Day, a day that can be one of the loneliest days of the year for those with little family contact.
One committee member stated, “We wanted to bring back the focus on the Christmas Spirit and we realized that part of that mission was fortified with a visit by our helpers on Christmas day – a day we can help brighten for someone who will be alone.”
This year, we will be providing our recipients with a hot meal, a festive Christmas gift basket, a live plant, and a gift certificate that will allow them to purchase groceries. We will also be encouraging our volunteer elves to take the time to visit with each recipient and brighten their day. Please consider taking a few minutes out of your family’s holiday to brighten the day of someone else. A committee member concluded, “These gifts do more than supply a person some much-needed personal items and increase their access to groceries– they tell the shut-in that we, their neighbors, haven’t forgotten them.”
As the holidays near, keep your eyes open for an announcement of scheduled sessions for making gift baskets and of course, save some time on Christmas Day for the delivery of the packages and good will.
The Townie Santa committee will hold its first full meeting of the season on Nov. 24 at the James W. Conway Bunker Hill Post 26, 23 Adams St. at 6 p.m. while peeling, paring and cutting vegetables for the Thanksgiving Day dinner cooked by Bob Sweeney and family for Charlestown residents who are alone. So if you are interested in being part of the planning, bring some utensils down to the Legion.
For additional information, call Debbie Lang at 617-242-3878 or Tim Conway at 617-241-9266 or e-mail TownieSanta@gmail.com.