Constantia resident Angela Gorman celebrated International Wheelchair Day, which is held annually on March 1, by delivering a new wheelchair to Doordrift Lodge in Plumstead.
Her story goes back to October 2015 when she started a Facebook page called Senior Santa Shoebox.
It was inspired by the Santa Shoebox Project, which started in 2006 as an initiative of the Kidz2Kidz Trust and supplies goodies to underprivileged children at Christmas.
Ms Gorman said she had originally wanted to make shoeboxes for seniors in Doordrift Lodge, in Plumstead.
“Some never have visitors and might not have families or get gifts over this festive time. In October 2015, we visited the home, got a list of the residents and worked out their wants and needs before distributing the names to amazing community members who wanted to help,” said Ms Gorman.
Joined by her daughter, Ciara Barry, they spent months organising and picking up gift packs from all over greater Cape Town. Their target was to make up 43 shoeboxes for Doordrift Lodge, but they ended up with more than 70, so the rest went to residents at Plumstead Rusoord.
From there, the project grew to include Erica Place, in Athlone, which has 81 residents, and Lilyhaven Place, in Bonteheuwel, which has 143 residents.
“The excitement and happiness in their faces was obvious. It meant so much to these elderly ladies and gents, and some were moved to tears,” said Ms Gorman.
It was also an emotional experience for those making up the boxes: some of them were doing it in memory of parents and grandparents.
Each volunteer who makes a box is given the name of a woman or man in a home, and where possible a bit of information about them, so that they can personalise their box.
“The recipient is handed their gift by Santa and his elves at the home’s Christmas lunch. They realise that someone has created a present especially for them. Each of the 246 we received last year was beautifully wrapped with amazing gifts inside,” said Ms Gorman.
She got some ideas of what to put in the boxes from a similar project she came across on the internet: “Toiletries, magazines, crosswords, socks and some treats, anything you would like to give your granny or grandpa. We’re busy fine-tuning the list for this coming Christmas,” she said.
They compile the boxes from mid-October and most volunteers hand in their boxes within a couple of weeks. Last year, they had drop-off points at Chic Mamas in Bergvliet and Make A Difference Leadership Foundation in the northern suburbs.
Andre Bottcher, manager of Doordrift Lodge, said the shoeboxes brought much joy to the residents. Some of them have financial needs and they appreciate the gifts.
Ms Gorman has received many responses from the homes. She said an 81-year-old Bonteheuwel resident said she couldn’t believe that anyone could know her so well as to choose such perfect gifts for her. “She said it was years since she had been given, or worn, nail varnish,” said Ms Gorman.
As the project picks up further momentum, an Athlone church pastor has offered to take over the buying of toiletries for Erica Place in Athlone and get his own congregation and community involved with their elderly and to put more treats in the boxes.
“He also suggests adding an item of clothing and wants more input from the homes so that we know if someone is an amputee and thus does not need pairs of socks, or is diabetic, wheelchair-bound or has poor eyesight,” she said.
Springfield Convent’s Interact held a cake sale to raise money for a wheelchair which was handed over yesterday to Augusta Halverson at Doordrift Place.
Another four wheelchairs were handed over on Sunday February 26 to Erica Place after ten bikers from the Fish Hoek-based Boep Club Crew had raised funds.
SACS Junior School and the International Women’s Club have also offered to get involved.
For her next project, Ms Gorman’s wants to donate iPods and MP3 players to old age home residents so they can listen to music. Similar projects, she says, have been credited with helping people with dementia.
If you would like to get involved with the Senior Santa Shoebox project, visit www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010434947864. email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 079 504 1933.