Santa pays a special visit to Charlestown seniors ahead of Christmas
As “Santa Lincoln” (Lincoln Crum) knocks on the door of a senior citizen in Charlestown, Ind. the bells around his waist can’t help but jingle. He’s been doing this all afternoon.
Most people gingerly open the door, barely visible as they peer around the jamb.
Then they suddenly grin and throw the door open wide, recognizing the visitor.
“Santa!” one person shouts, with a laugh.
Santa Lincoln bellows “Merry Christmas!” his eyes a-twinkle and offers a shiny cellophane bag full of gifts curated just for them.
But he’s not really Santa.
It’s their neighbors in Charlestown who are.
Ruthie Jackson, Deputy Trustee of the Charlestown Township, said for three years her office has run the “Senior Santa” program. They see it as part of their responsibility as trustees - a position unique to Indiana townships - to help the poor with basic necessities. So each year, she calls senior citizens who they’ve helped with rent, utility bills or other expenses and asks what they’d like.
“I’ll say: If you had $100 extra that you could spend on yourself, because most of them don’t think that way. What would you buy? Some need towels, some need clothes, some need house shoes,” Jackson said.
“It’s like pulling teeth sometimes,” added Trustee Tom Kendrick.
After a little friendly cajoling they’ll get a wish list from each senior. Then, the Trustee’s Office distributes them to volunteers in Charlestown who shop for those gifts.
The first year about a dozen seniors participated. This year, there are 71.
The trustee’s office arranges the gifts in festive bags. One contains no less than a dog bed, a dog bowl, dog toys and a therapeutic pillow.
“I’ll tell you what honey, it’s a good - Christm - it’s a good…” one senior sputters, searching for words upon receiving her gift bag from Santa Lincoln.
“I’m blessed,” she finishes, her voice cracking. “That’s all I can tell y’all. Thank you all. Y’all have a merry Christmas, all of you.”
Santa Lincoln and Kendrick, the trustee, each give her a hug and turn to walk away.
“That was awesome,” Santa Lincoln excitedly whispers, leaning in close as we walk back to the sleigh (Kendrick’s gray minivan.)
“Just the rush of knowing that you brought just a little sense of cheer and hope to somebody in their heart. Man, that’s powerful stuff.”
He pauses for a moment and the jingle bells on his hip stop jingling for the first time in the delivery. After a few seconds lost in thought he suddenly turns and shouts to Kendrick, “Alright, little elf! Where are we going next?”