Hundreds of Christmas gifts donated to Truckee senior residents

Hannah Jones

Christmas came early at the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments, as residents received hundreds of donated presents and about $6,000 in gift cards during an annual party.

“It makes life a lot easier,” said Michael Bryxbe who has lived at the apartments for five years. “If someone gives you a $75 Savemart gift card, that could be a couple weeks worth of groceries.”

According to Jesse Grisfin, a resident who goes by “Clarence Oddbody” — the angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life” — as she helps organize the donations, most of the residents live off $1,000 or less a month. Though the Truckee community has been donating gifts to the senior residents every year for a few decades, Grisfin said it continues to grow every year.

“I don’t get anything. People give me stuff and I pay it forward immediately,” she said.

She took over handling the donations shortly after she moved into the apartments in 2005 and had to start from scratch because she didn’t have many people donating, those she now calls the “elves.” This year, she said she was about 30 short of $50 Visa gift cards for residents when she came down with pneumonia.

That’s when an anonymous caller told her they would donate the remaining 30 cards.

“So ‘Secret Santa’ hit,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Days before the Dec. 14 party Grisfin’s 600-square-foot apartment was filled with donated gifts, forcing her to find another apartment to store them.

In addition to the gifts, residents enjoyed lunch donated by the Ritz-Carlton, along with food from Tahoe Forest Church.

“We need to get together more,” said Joel Wassen, a resident of the apartments since 2004. “This is a highlight of the year.”

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at or 530-550-2652.

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.