Gift-giving program gives the gift of joy to lonely, isolated seniors

The Brainerd lakes area Be a Santa to a Senior program saw an increase in senior participants this year compared to last year, according to organizers. The program connects donors with seniors who would appreciate a gift.

A woman looks at a tag on a Christmas tree.
Executive Director of Home Instead Katelin Hohertz looks at some of the gift requests on their tree Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at Home Instead in Baxter. Volunteer givers can pick a tag and return the gifts to the business to be delivered Dec. 20 in the area.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Home Instead Senior Care of Baxter has been involved with the national Be a Santa to a Senior program for more than a dozen years and it is not stopping now.

The gifts are often necessity items such as blankets, toiletries, slippers, stationery and postage stamps, and help area seniors combat the holiday blues.

Home Instead encourages Brainerd lakes area residents to share the holiday spirit with older adults who may not have family and feel alone. Through Be a Santa to a Senior, community members can give a special holiday gift to an older adult who may otherwise go without.

“A simple gift can bring such joy to older adults who may not have loved ones to celebrate with,” said Katelin Hohertz, executive director at the Baxter Home Instead office and licensed clinical social worker. “Through Be a Santa to a Senior, we can help them feel the holiday spirit.”

This year, program coordinators hope to collect gifts for 919 local older adults compared to the 791 adults who received gifts last year. This is the program’s 14th year in the area.


Be a Santa to a Senior trees or displays are located around the Brainerd lakes area. Ornaments featuring the first names and desired gift of an older adult will be on display, and shoppers can buy and gift wrap the requested gift and return it to the location with the ornament attached.

“Honestly, they are just so in disbelief that someone thought about them and bought a present for them,” Hohertz said of the seniors who receive the donated gifts. “They just can't even believe that someone would be that kind.”

Gifts will be collected through Dec. 12. The gifts will be delivered to local older adults on Dec. 20.

“This program is so much more than gift-giving,” Hohertz said. “It's about the special moments and joy shared between the older adults and the community around them. There is nothing better than seeing the smile on an older adult’s face when they open their gift.”

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The Home Instead office serving the Brainerd lakes area has partnered with local businesses, nonprofit organizations, volunteers and members of the community to help with gift collection and distribution.

“What we did start doing two years ago is having the gifts come in wrapped … because people put their own spin on the wrapping,” Hohertz said of the Home Instead program. “There's lots of notes and cards that they're attaching to it. Or kids will make a drawing and attach it to the present.”

Since the program’s inception in 2003, Be a Santa to a Senior has mobilized more than 65,000 volunteers, provided approximately 2.2 million gifts and brightened the season for more than 750,000 older adults nationwide.

For more information, visit or call 218-303-4056. To learn more about helping older adults in the Brainerd lakes area, visit .


How to get involved

Individuals can visit one of the locations below and look for the Be a Santa to a Senior tree on display until Dec. 12. Each tree will be decorated with ornaments with seniors’ first names and gift suggestions.

Holiday shoppers can choose an ornament, buy the requested gift and return it wrapped to the store (or the Home Instead office in Baxter) with the ornament attached.

  • Associates in Eyecare, 14453 Edgewood Drive, Baxter.
  • Big Stone Therapies, 15620 Edgewood Drive N., Suite 240, Baxter.
  • Black Bear Lodge and Saloon, 14819 Edgewood Drive, Baxter.
  • Brainerd City Hall, 501 Laurel St., Brainerd.
  • Brainerd Public Utilities, 8027 Highland Scenic Drive, Brainerd.
  • Caribou Coffee, 425 Eighth Ave. NE, Brainerd.
  • Caribou Coffee and Bagels, 14199 Edgewood Drive N., No. 100, Baxter.
  • The Center, 803 Kingwood St., Brainerd.
  • Crow Wing County Community Services, 204 Laurel St., Brainerd.
  • Edward Jones-Greg Benett, 406 Washington St. W., Suite 3, Brainerd.
  • Frandsen Bank and Trust, 35470 County Road 3, Crosslake.
  • GuidePoint Pharmacy, 108 S. Sixth St., Suite 1, Brainerd.
  • Home Instead Senior Care, 13432 Elmwood Drive, Suite 24, Baxter.
  • Nor-Son, 7900 Hastings Road, Baxter.
  • Riverwood Bank, 14540 Dellwood Drive, Baxter.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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