Usually, the musical entertainment is live. This year, the Christmas carols came courtesy of Spotify, broadcast over wireless speakers in a second-floor dining room at Heritage Living Center in Park Rapids.

Nevertheless, Santa Claus came to town for the facility’s residents on Monday when they opened their gifts.

The man in the red suit was actually Scott Persons. The gifts came not from elves at the north pole, but from local people who wanted to make the season bright.

Santa (Scott Persons) offers a friendly handshake while handing out candy canes to Heritage residents Jeanne Thayer, at left, and Jeanne Walsh. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)
Santa (Scott Persons) offers a friendly handshake while handing out candy canes to Heritage residents Jeanne Thayer, at left, and Jeanne Walsh. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

“They’re beautiful,” Sylvia Kyllonen said about her gifts.

“It’s called the Dove Program, or Project,” said Heritage staff member Teresa Drewes. “It’s been going on for more than 20 years. Each person’s name is put on a dove at the local banks, and the community picks them up. Everybody gets a gift.”

“Thank you!” said resident Deb Anderson.

Asked whether an organization or auxiliary takes credit for the Dove Project, Drewes said, “No, it’s just the general public.”

Heritage resident Cindy Hart, at left, helps Anne Zingraf, age 105, unbox her Dove Project present – an assortment of teas. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)
Heritage resident Cindy Hart, at left, helps Anne Zingraf, age 105, unbox her Dove Project present – an assortment of teas. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

Anne Zingraf, age 105, remarked, “Very nice. Thank you!”

Drewes included gift suggestions on the doves with the residents’ names, but their secret Santas were free to buy whatever they wanted – “everything from pajamas to chocolates,” she said.

“Oh, I love it,” cried Jeanne Thayer.

There were two gift-opening events on Monday – a morning session in the first-floor chapel, where residents gathered around the Christmas tree, and an afternoon one upstairs.

Shirley Schmitt gets an unexpected visit from great-granddaughter Lucy Vogtman and grandson Philip Vogtman as Santa smiles on. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)
Shirley Schmitt gets an unexpected visit from great-granddaughter Lucy Vogtman and grandson Philip Vogtman as Santa smiles on. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

“I think they’re wonderful,” said resident Robert Winner after opening his gifts. “They did a very nice job. Heritage always does a good job.”

Grace Erb agreed, “I think they’re very nice. I love chocolate. And I have jewelry and lotion, all kinds of nice things.”