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Seniors of all ages help Santa answer his mail

The United States Postal Services is doing it’s best to keep up during the holiday season. Some letters were still here and weren’t expected to make it to Santa in the North Pole in time.

Fortunately for Santa, neighborhood elves who are members of the Homewood-Flossmoor High Class of 2024 and adult senior citizens joined together for the Adult & Senior “Santa Helpers” program, hosted by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.

Together they helped get replies to 158 of those holiday letters that didn’t make it to Santa.   

H-F High seniors Victoria Plummer, left, and Sari Zinnerman, center, work with VIP Jackie Riffice as Santa’s elves at the Santa Senior Helpers event. (Nuha Abdessalam photos/H-F Chronicle)

Homewood-Flossmoor High School seniors and the VIPs met up on Saturday, Dec. 16, at Wiley’s Grill in Flossmoor to help with the task. The elves were put to work reading letters and responding for Santa while enjoying hot chocolate, cookies and good company. 

Homewood-Flossmoor Park District’s Recreation Supervisors Jennah Carlson and Devin Frendreis said the effort was an excellent opportunity for community members to connect and foster holiday magic. 

Homewood-Flossmoor Park District employees Devin Frendreis,
left, and Jennah Carlson helped organize the Santa Senior
Helpers event.

“We were getting so many letters, and we wanted to take this ample opportunity on what we can do to make this better,” said Frendreis. Connecting the two age groups helped foster “that one-on-one time that maybe you wouldn’t have had, encourages intergenerational tips and life journey and connecting with someone in the community,” Frendreis said. 

“We have a lot of organizations within H-F, including NHS (National Honor Society) and Student Government, which are all expanding interests,” said Carlson. “Developing this program, with intergenerational programming being a goal, has been instrumental in forming the core in community connections.”

H-F high school senior Ketia Franklin had goals to stick with when moving through letters as Santa’s elf this year: “I want to highlight what they’ve written kindly about themselves, what they’re proud of from this year, specifically, and if their presents are ‘extreme’ I try to assure their good behavior will lead them to what they want.” 

Elf Trinity Davis, an H-F senior, points out how honest kids are. “This little boy checked off ‘naughty’ on his letter,” Davis said. “He wants a huge, real-life size Godzilla figure. It’s been interesting.” 

“I’ve enjoyed sitting with these young ladies in comparing and contrasting what I would do when I was younger. This renews my faith in young people, and having lived in Homewood since 1961, I’m involved,” said VIP elf Donna Anfield who joined the event’s festivities for a second year because of how fun and delightful it was the first time. 

“The letters are more structured this year, whereas last year, they were freer in writing and requests –– while it was so funny, having a parameter helps,” she said. 

Submissions of real-life mermaids, specific colored titanium iPhone 15 Pro devices, and random demands of funny gifts like whoopie cushions were among some of the requests H-F elf Victoria Plummer shared. 

“It’s definitely different than I would have asked at age 7, but seeing the Christmas spirit and magic alive in believing just by writing to Santa is awesome,” Plummer said. 

H-F Elf Sari Zinnerman appreciated the pairings and groups made with VIP seniors. 

“I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s been so fun, and it’s also helpful talking with VIP senior elf Jackie Riffice,” Zinnerman said. “She has a great sense of humor and is patient, and when I said my biggest takeaway was to slow down (life’s busy pace), Jackie also described how she went through that.” 

Stephanie Wright, Flossmoor community engagement manager, emphasized how Homewood and Flossmoor provide value for their community residents through a cross-generational opportunity. 

“Not only are we promoting community connections over conversation but over service projects, which shows how valuable getting everybody to work on a task is,” Wright said. 

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