Bertram Rantin

Rantin: Santa brightens day for seniors

Santa's sleigh got a police escort as it rolled through the Belmont area this week.

As the jolly old elf made his way through the Gable Oaks Apartments, he carried packages for some of the neighborhood's most senior residents.

It was one of many similar stops this week as part of the Be a Santa to a Senior Project.

"Traditionally, they are the givers, so we just wanted to make sure they get because they give so much," said Renee' Martin.

Martin is the community relations coordinator with Harmony Care Hospice, which partnered with Home Instead Senior Care to bring the nationally based program to the area for the first time.

For six years, the campaign has provided more than one million gifts to needy and isolated seniors throughout North America.

Locally, Harmony Care Hospice and Home Instead were helped by volunteers from the Richland County Sheriff's Department and Chick-fil-A as they make more than 200 deliveries.

Pajamas, soft blankets, stocking hats and dog food are just a few of the items being dropped off.

Gable Oaks resident Margarette Campbell was all smiles after getting a knock on her door Monday and being greeted with gifts by Santa, who bares a striking resemblance to Phil Kuzlik of Ballentine.

"This is the first time I've had Santa Claus come to my door," Campbell said. "This is a blessing."

Rene Kilburn, owner of Home Instead, said it's a greeting more seniors deserve.

"People think about kids a lot, but they need to think about seniors as well," she said, describing a delivery she'd witnessed at one couple's home that morning.

"They just went on and on. It's a lot of fun."

Families served through the Be a Santa to a Senior effort were identified through community resource groups and neighborhood associations.

The Bush River Road Chick-fil-A featured a Christmas tree that displayed ornaments with the first names of seniors and their gift requests. Holiday shoppers selected an ornament, purchased the gifts and returned them to the store. Colonial Life Arena also supported the project and served as a drop-off site for gifts.

The remaining gifts are to be delivered this week.

"The bottom line is we're all kids at heart," Martin said. "We all love a present."