Truckee ‘Wish Box’ for seniors opens for holiday season, seeks elves |

Truckee ‘Wish Box’ for seniors opens for holiday season, seeks elves

Amy Edgett

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Santa's Wish Box spreads holiday cheer every year for Truckee's elders who may have little in the way of gifts — or no family with whom to celebrate.

Philanthropic residents created the Wish Box almost 25 years ago by, with the community giving small gifts to Truckee Donner Senior Apartment residents.

For the past six years, Truckee resident Jesse Griffin, also known as "Clarence-AS2," has organized the gift giving.

Known as the Movie Lady, "Clarence" imbibes in the Christmas spirit every day, all year round. Taking her moniker from the classic film, "It's a Wonderful Life," she acts as an angel to provide a festive affair for Truckee seniors.

"It (the movie) exhibits the simplicity of a community coming together, helping each other out," said Clarence of her all-time favorite. "I love Kapra, I love that movie, I love Jimmy Stewart — it's something that give me a warm feeling."

Community and/or businesses are invited to get that "warm feeling" as Christmas elves to fill senior "wishes."

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Three years ago, Clarence shifted the Wish Box to a community luncheon and gathering.

"I was tired of not seeing people's faces when they received their gifts," she said of the apartments' residents. "The luncheon is a warm holiday meal, with Santa, Christmas tunes and the Ritz-Carlton merry makers — especially Bernie the Elf."


The event preparation and gift giving requires many helping hands. As the season approaches, Clarence calls for religious groups, individuals, businesses and service organizations to consider participating.

Last year, Optimist Denny Dickinson donated the Christmas tree, decorated by the Sunrise Rotary and Truckee Elementary School Choir as they sang holiday tunes.

Lee Kresy, owner and chef of D'Lish Catering, served a traditional holiday meal, preparing something special for seniors and attendees.

"I've known Jesse for 25 years, and am proud to help out," said Kresy, a supporter of community involvement.

Dee Dee Stabolito, a senior apartments worker and Wish Box elf, also helped out, stating her favorite part of the event is Santa's arrival on a Truckee Fire Department engine.

When Santa ho-ho-ho's into the dining room, exuberantly residents clap and cheer. Who wouldn't?

But a not-so-funny thing happened on Nov. 2, 2013. Clarence was hanging a movie poster and fell off the step ladder

"I had a big boo boo," she said.

But a torn ACL and miniscus did not daunt the leading lady. Her dedication poured forth from a bedside command center.

Everything was ready to go before the mid-December "do," but Clarence wound up grounded. She caught the flu and was quarantined at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

"They wouldn't listen to me and took my clothes so I couldn't escape," she said.


The show did go on, with elves decorating tables, handing out a copious amount of gift bags previously arranged. Except one.

"They kept asking where's the bag for No. 18?" said Clarence. After a quick call to the hospital to check, they realized No. 18 is Clarence's room: She doesn't stuff a bag for herself.

Clarence, who has earned her wings time and again, does have a big wish for all residents: a flat screen TV for the common area/dining room at the senior apartments to replace the one that was stolen.

"That's my Christmas wish — so we can have community movies, sports, popcorn and get a sense of community here," she said.

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe donates bags from each department, including toiletries and more as part of the Community Footprints program. Ten to 15 volunteers take pastry, cookies and coffee, and also serve lunch plates to each resident tableside.

Leticia Aguilar, owner and lead teacher of Lety's Preschool & Daycare, has had students perform song and dance. Event Masters in the spirit of Christmas, has donated China, place settings and linen.

"Frank the Glassblower" tickles the ivories with Christmas tunes each year, and loves doing this for young and old.

"Santa Claus is a very good friend of mine," he said, hoping his good deed helps make up for any bad stuff he's done the rest of the year.

To learn more about Santa's Wish Box, to fill wishes, help wrap presents or donate items, email Clarence at

more info

Santa’s Wish Box

Serving Truckee seniors

Deadline to participate Dec. 5


Find photo gallery of past events at