The Home Instead Senior Care network's "Be a Santa to a Senior" campaign is complete, and a lot of local seniors are better off for it.
Before the holiday season began, participating local nonprofit organizations identified needy and isolated seniors and provided those names to the Home Instead Senior Care office. Christmas trees in area businesses featured ornaments with the first names of the seniors and their gift requests.
Then, holiday shoppers were able to pick up an ornament, buy items on the list and return them unwrapped to the store, along with the ornament attached.
Natasha Calhoun, community service advisor of the Home Instead, an organization that serves seniors in Hermitage and DeKalb, Smith and Wilson counties, said the campaign was a success again this year.
"We had gifts for about 700 seniors this year," she said. "They were just tickled to get the gifts."
She credits a lot of local organizations with aiding the program and Friendship Christian School parents and employees of CedarStone Bank with helping get the gifts delivered.
As usual, some of the requests from local seniors made an impression on organizers.
"A couple people asked for a heater," Calhoun said. "One man was heating his house by turning on his gas stove and putting a fan behind it. That is a very dangerous thing to do. That request really got to us."
She said the man in question has his new heater now thanks to Be a Santa to a Senior.
"As usual, we got a lot of requests for toiletries, socks and blankets," Calhoun said. "One man asked for a gold wedding band. We thought he might have lost his. Everyone had a guess about that request. He got a ring."
To make Be a Santa to a Senior a success, Home Instead partnered with the Lebanon Senior Center, CedarStone Bank, Meals on Wheels of Wilson County, the Wilson County Sheriff's Department Senior Citizens Awareness Network, FCS and area retailers and businesses to provide gifts and companionship to seniors who otherwise might not receive either this holiday season.
Many older adults continue to struggle along with the economy, particularly those who live alone with no family nearby to help, so Be a Santa to a Senior is a blessing that makes their holidays brighter.
"We absolutely plan to do this next year," Calhoun said. "We hope to keep growing and help more seniors every year."
It's not too late to contribute, for more information about how, call Home Instead at 615-553-4297.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.