Santa for Seniors will go national, thanks to $15 million gift; Tacoma’s Bill Looney would smile
A local businessman’s visits to his mother’s Puget Sound area care facility dressed as Santa Claus will grow into a national campaign to ease loneliness for isolated seniors.
This is the legacy of Bill Looney, seven years after his death, thanks to a minimum $15 million provided by the William A. Looney Family Foundation. The gift means the Santa for Seniors program, operated by Lutheran Community Services Northwest, will expand from Washington to several states, with a goal to touch the lives of 100,000 seniors in ten years. LCSNW plans to keep building on the model from there.
The gift, which was announced at an April 15 celebration inside the Santa for Seniors gift-packing warehouse in Tacoma, is exceptional in
philanthropic circles and unprecedented in size for LCSNW.
And while Bill wasn’t here to see it, the partnership is actively attending
to his wish that every senior feel remembered, not forgotten.
“Bill was a dreamer and a visionary, so going national with Santa for Seniors would be right up his alley if he were alive today,” said David Duea, President and CEO of LCSNW.
The collaboration between the social-service agency and the Looney Foundation has grown steadily since 2015, the year Bill died. More than 100 seniors were served that first year; this past Christmas, more than 4,200 low-income seniors in 9 Washington counties – and one county in Oregon, for the first time – received gift bags, homemade cards and ornaments. The roster of volunteer “elves” has increased from a few that first year to a few hundred today.
Today Bill’s vision to lift the spirits of lonely, aging people extends to other times of year. This spring 1,700 gift bags are being distributed with items such as mini flower kits and umbrellas.
Santa for Seniors makes a huge difference for homebound seniors in the Greater Puget Sound area by connecting them to resources that improve social determinants of health. LCS Northwest offers fall prevention classes, Senior Companions, dementia services, Meals on Wheels, and other social supports vital to living a full life.
“We’ve developed a program that can really open the door to in-home seniors,” Duea said. “This has never been about the gift. It’s about somebody stopping by and showing that ‘You are cared for.’ “