Senior Secret Santa program aims to spread joy to Hills residents

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published November 20, 2020

 Gifts to be delivered to seniors across Farmington Hills, as part of the Adults 50 & Better Division’s Senior Secret Santa program, line the walls of the Costick Center in 2019.

Gifts to be delivered to seniors across Farmington Hills, as part of the Adults 50 & Better Division’s Senior Secret Santa program, line the walls of the Costick Center in 2019.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Even while remaining anonymous, people can make a senior citizen’s life brighter this holiday season.

That’s the feeling Farmington Hills resident Greg Cooper, 70, has received each year as Department of Public Works employees show up to his residence and hand deliver a basket of Christmas gifts.

“The Secret Santa program really helps me out a great deal,” Cooper said. “I could never repay the happiness and joy it has brought to my life.”

Cooper is one of hundreds of seniors who receive gifts through the Farmington Hills Adults 50 & Better Division’s Senior Secret Santa program each holiday season, which Senior Adult Supervisor Teresa Jergovich said she’s been running for the past 20 years. The program is currently open and seeking interested individuals wishing to donate and make a difference.

According to a press release, the seniors selected to receive gifts all come from Jergovich’s social work case management files, or from police and fire department referrals. Many seniors are dealing with financial or health complications, or may be alone, without family for the holidays.

Last year, Jergovich and her staff of Santa’s helpers were able to provide donations to 225 seniors in the city. This year, she plans to assist 300 seniors through the program, which she said carries more importance than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic and elderly residents forced to stay isolated inside. 

“The senior, older adult population has really struggled with this virus this year, regarding more of the loneliness and isolation and not being able to see their families, grandchildren or friends; or having their church outings they would normally go to; or their bridge clubs,” Jergovich said. “Just knowing someone out there is thinking of them and wishing them a festive, nice holiday, because it can be depressing, helps them to not feel forgotten.”

Cooper said he was worried the program may be cancelled this year due to ongoing concerns with the pandemic, but he was happy to find out that wasn’t the case.

There is no limit to the number of seniors a person interested in donating can adopt. Donations can be given in the form of gifts and/or money, for those who have concerns with going out to stores currently. Jergovich said she would be happy to go purchase the presents for seniors.

Along with individual donations, city employees and other community organizations, such as the Mayor’s Youth Council, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, First United Methodist Church, and the Alameda and Beechview schools’ parent teacher associations plan to participate this year.

Gift donations can range from winter outerwear to holiday treats, Jergovich said, but this year, especially, seniors are asking for personal care items — Kleenex, toilet paper, paper towel, sanitizers and toothpaste — that have been difficult for them to find given the sometimes empty shelves at stores or their lack of transportation to get there.

“I always like them to get a box of holiday cookies or something that’s festive, because it’s nice to have in the house at that time of year,” she said. “These gifts are not really exciting to you and me, but it means the world to them. It really does.”

Cooper’s needs are plentiful, but he said he’s not a fussy person and remains grateful for anything he’s gifted. One item he mentioned of specific need is a new vacuum cleaner.

“I think it’s broken,” he said. “I’ve been trying to repair it and keep it going. I get it running, (but) it stops again. I think the motor is just about shot.”

To participate in the program, contact Jergovich at (248) 473-1826 or tjergovich@fhgov.com. All gifts are due to Jergovich at the Costick Center by Dec. 11.

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