WMHS students play secret Santa for seniors

Pictured from left to right: Bryson Talbert, Olivia Binggeli, Sandra Baker, Anna Mazurowski, Lindsey Acree, Sarah Thompson, Shania Coleman, Hannah McDaniel and Kevin Wang.

As the Christmas season neared for William Monroe High School students, one thing was on many of their minds — making sure that the senior citizens at Grace Retirement Village in Stanardsville had presents to open.

In its third year, the Adopt a Senior Santa program is something students look forward to each year.

“It feels good (when shopping for the residents),” senior Olivia Binggeli said. “It’s overall a very rewarding experience; I truly hope that this is a program that continues for years to come.”

Some students and their families have participated all three years, while others are first time participants. Senior Desraeli McBride said that this was her first time shopping for a “Senior Santa,” and that finding gifts that matched their wishes made her day.

Angelina Santus started the program in 2016 after seeing many different toy drives, but no wish lists for senior citizens.

“The holidays can be a lonely time,” Santus said. “I want to make sure everyone has a chance to feel remembered and cared about.”

She says it never fails to amaze her how quickly the students adopt the residents of GRACE. Using an app called Remind, Santus can notify students when it’s time to adopt their Senior Santa. 

“I can send out the notification email and within seconds I’m getting responses. In fact, last year we had over 40 residents and it took less than 3 hours to get them all adopted. This year we had 17, so they were all adopted within the hour.”

It’s a point of pride for the students of Greene.

“We need to be aware of our community members and reach out to help when needed. What they ask for is heartwarming, from comfy socks to hand lotions, it’s all things that are easy for us to afford and buy,” senior Ainslie Whitmarsh said.

Depending on the number of residents to adopt, the program can become school-wide. Last year, the Cosmetology department of the Career & Technical Education Center adopted five residents; it’s a trend that Santus and her students hope to continue year after year.

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