As the Christmas season approaches many people think mostly of Santa Claus in connection with children. Images of joyful children climbing on Santa's lap sharing their dreams of presents, stores filling up with toys and candy and holiday movie themes all seem to emphasize the wonder of childhood. But, one local company is once again helping to focus some of that holiday spirit on another very important group, our community's elderly.
Home Instead Senior Care's 8th annual "Be a Santa to a Senior" charity Christmas program kicked off November 18th. Home Instead Senior Care, the area's oldest provider of non-medical personal care and homemaker services for the elderly is partnering once again with Walgreen Pharmacy's to provide gifts to hundreds of area seniors who may otherwise be overlooked during the busy holiday season.
"We are very happy to be presenting this program again this year," said Jim Sullivan, Owner of Home Instead Senior Care, "Walgreen's is generously taking part again this year and the joy that this program brings to so many area seniors is very important and incredibly rewarding to all involved."
Home Instead's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program is a traditional giving tree program. Christmas trees are placed in all Walgreen Pharmacy stores in Allen County and surrounding areas. Names of seniors and their modest gift requests are collected from senior care facilities and home services organizations and placed on ornaments on the trees. Patrons of Walgreens may take an ornament, purchase those items for the senior and leave them with Walgreens personnel. The gifts will be collected by volunteers from Home Instead, Walgreens, The Lion's Club and other community service organizations and delivered to the Home Instead Senior Care office for wrapping and distribution to the seniors.
According to Sullivan, the program has grown every year since its inception eight years ago. In 2010 over 2000 gifts were donated and distributed to 223 seniors in need in Fort Wayne and surrounding areas and this year the program is expected to be even bigger.
"It is truly heartening to see the response and generosity of the people of Northeastern Indiana. It seems the harder the economic times, the more concerned and generous people are."
The tough economy can be particularly hard on seniors. According to the Annual Survey of Senior Costs from the senior advocacy organization The Senior Citizens League, seniors have lost nearly one third (32 percent) of their buying power since 2000. In most years, seniors receive a small increase in their Social Security checks, intended to help them keep up with the costs of inflation. But since 2000, the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has increased just 31 percent, while the typical senior expenses have jumped 73 percent, according to the survey.
The "Be A Santa to a Senior" program is designed to give back to those needy seniors who have contributed so much to our communities over the years. It is also intended to stimulate human contact and social interaction for older adults who are unlikely to have guests during the holidays.
"The most important thing this program does is to let these seniors know that they are appreciated and that they are not forgotten at Christmas," said Joan Black, Quality Assurance Director for Home Instead. "The gift requests are so modest, things like socks, snacks, toiletries and puzzle books that it reminds us that what really matters is the human contact and the fact that people are thinking of them."
The program will run from November 18th through December 13th at all Walgreen Pharmacies in Allen County and some surrounding areas. Wrapping parties will be held December 16th from 6-8pm and December 17th from 2-4pm at the Home Instead Senior Care Office, 2789-B Maplecrest Road, Fort Wayne, IN.