GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A jolly red-robed fellow bearing bags of gifts made his way to Glens Falls on Thursday morning. No, it’s not Christmas Day quite yet; but for the residents of the Glens Falls Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, the day was every bit as special.
4s4life charity founder Jacque Ecuyer double-masked, donned his Santa Claus suit and delivered 115 bags of wrapped, donated Christmas gifts to residents at the nursing home as part of his organization’s new “Santa for Seniors” initiative. Those seniors unwrapped blankets, calendars, stuffed animals and more practical fare like toiletry items; five or six items to a bag. All of it is to make Christmas bright for a population Ecuyer feels has gone underserved.
“It feels amazing just seeing the smiles on their faces,” he said. “It’s almost like watching a child open a present for the first time. It almost brings back childhood memories for them, when some of these people deal with dementia and Alzheimers.”
Ecuyer was right there with those seniors, giving each one a friendly hello and calling them by name as he placed bag after bag on table after table in the center’s dining room.
“Betty Lou,” he called out to one senior in a sing-song voice. “Is that like Betty Lou Who?”
The slew of gifts were all comprised of donated goods, which Ecuyer said came fast after 4s4life launched the effort. Six locations around Glens Falls and Queensbury agreed to serve as drop-off points for donations, including Travelers Insurance in Glens Falls, as well as Queensbury Union Free School District. Ecuyer picked them up himself, and stored them in his own basement for storage while communicating with nursing homes.
The Glens Falls Center wasn’t the only stop for the 4s4life sleigh, either. Thursday’s visit was to the final of three nursing homes to receive gifts, following up stops at Home of the Good Shepherd on Tuesday, and Washington Center for Nursing and Rehab in Argyle on Wednesday. All in all, over 300 bags of gifts were donated.
The smiles on senior faces were mirrored by those of the Glens Falls Center’s own staff. Employees and medical students served as Santa’s elves, helping get every uniquely nametagged bag to the person it was for.
“There are some residents with family support, and that’s great, but there are lots of residents here who don’t have that,” said Glens Falls Center Recreation Director Marijo Natale. “This is the most uplifting thing for them. It’s a day where they’ll feel happy, and feel the magic of Christmas – especially with Santa Claus here.”
Students Whitney Martell and Yvette Linendoll were there from BOCES, where they are studying nursing in Hudson Falls. They’ve been helping residents there for around six weeks, and in that time have formed relationships with many of them. On a day like this, those relationships grow closer still.
“That’s why we’re here, to do things for them,” said Martell. “I love it. It’s what I want to do. I want to help people, I want to lift their spirits, I want to see that sparkle in their eyes.”
After the holidays, Ecuyer will hang up the Santa suit, to focus on things like 4s4life’s scholarship program for students entering mental health fields. But on Thursday morning, he played the character for every smiling face he greeted.
“I love it,” he said.