Five years ago, Lynda Menard and Nancy Switzer decided to give Santa Claus a helping hand by providing gifts to all of the residents at the Smithfield and Pembina Lodges.
And for every Christmas since then, the “Westlock Elves” have paid out of their own pockets to ensure that every resident of the two lodges — even those who don’t have families to celebrate the holidays — gets a present for Christmas.
“There’s a need for it,” said Menard, noting that many seniors “fall through the cracks” during the holidays because they don’t have anyone to celebrate the occasion.
“We don’t want anyone missing out,” she added.
On Dec. 23, “Santa Claus” and a pair of elf helpers distributed gifts to roughly 180 residents at both of the lodges.
Every year, the presents given to residents have followed a theme, and this year was “calendars.” Menard noted they had to put a price limit on the gifts to cut back on costs.
In the past, Menard and Switzer, who are the activities directors for the Smithfield and Pembina Lodges, simply arranged for the gifts to be anonymously delivered. Many residents didn’t even guess that they were behind the project and some thought it was the Westlock Foundation itself, she said.
“It’s the ‘Westlock Elves’ and that’s the staff,” she said.
Financial constraints prompted the change; Menard and Switzer have had to rely on fundraising this year to help pay for all the gifts, so the cat is effectively out of the bag. And they are still in need of support.
“It’s too much for us, financially,” said Menard. “We’re not rich, except in heart.”
If they didn’t need to do so, Menard acknowledged they probably wouldn’t have “gone public,” so to speak. But “now we’re needing help,” she added.
Menard noted they have held several barbecues at the Sobey’s grocery store this summer to help raise funds. The Westlock Fire Department also generously supported the cause with a major donation.
And, as with every year since they’ve started, The Dollar Store has been a major supporter by donating many of their gifts, Menard said.
While they would certainly appreciate a financial donation, Menard noted they are collecting cartridges from old cell phones, computers and printers to recycle as part of an ongoing fundraiser.
If anyone would like to donate to the Westlock Elves, they should get in contact with Menard or Switzer through the Westlock Foundation.