The Christmas season can be a lonely time for seniors who do not have relatives to visit them at home. Elk Grove community members are invited to cheer up elderly residents and become their “Secret Santas” by purchasing and donating wrapped gifts for them. The Elk Grove Food Bank Services volunteers will then deliver the presents to seniors before Christmas.

This “Secret Santa for Seniors” program debuted last year and it provided gifts to 235 seniors, said Valerie Erwin, the community outreach manager for the food bank.  

“We had a wonderful response from the community last year and we’re trying to replicate it,” she said.

Erwin recalled that her staff could “barely walk out the door” since they received so many donations last year.

For this year’s campaign, donors can sign up to join the program by Nov. 23 and they will then be supplied with “wish lists” provided by seniors. Wrapped presents will then be accepted at the food bank’s office by Dec. 10.

“We hope this is an annual tradition that the whole family can get into,” Erwin said. “That makes me happy anytime we can spread that merriment and especially teach the kids that it is better to give.”

She said that the food bank has nearly 500 seniors who receive food assistance from their mobile distribution sites.

“It’s heartbreaking to think we have people in our community who don’t have families,” Erwin said. “This (Secret Santa program) brings back joy.”

She mentioned that one food bank volunteer heard from a senior who said that she received her only Christmas gift last year, thanks to the program. The senior now shops every month to provide gifts for someone else.

For information on how to join the Secret Santa for Seniors program, email Valerie Erwin at or call (916) 685-8453. The Elk Grove Food Bank Services office is at 9820 Dino Drive.