Be a Santa to seniors

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 3:23 p.m.
Area retailers and agencies that serve older adults have joined forces with a Gainesville senior care service to deliver gifts and companionship to isolated seniors during the busy holiday season.
Last year, more than 53,000 needy seniors throughout North America received gifts as part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program.
The area office of Home Instead Senior Care, a provider of non-medical home care and companionship for older adults, this year has teamed with Eldercare of Alachua County, Foster Grandparents of Alachua County and Wal-Mart in Gainesville to provide presents to seniors who otherwise might not receive a gift this holiday season. This is the second year of a program that in its first year distributed 96,000 gifts to the deserving seniors with the help of 7,000 volunteers. "We have been thrilled with the reception and the response to our program both on a local basis as well as nationally," said Toni Fagan, who - along with Richard Fagan - owns the Home Instead Senior Care offices serving Duval, Clay, Bradford, Union and Alachua counties.
"Be a Santa to a Senior is more than just a gift-giving project. The program is designed to help stimulate human contact and social interaction for seniors who are unlikely to have guests during the holidays."
Here's how the program, which runs through Dec. 15, works: Before the holiday season, the participating local non-profit organizations will identify needy, orphaned and isolated seniors in the community and provide those names to Home Instead.
Christmas trees, which will feature ornaments with the first names only of the seniors and their respective gift requests, will go up in the Wal-Mart store on NW 13th Street in Gainesville.
Holiday shoppers can pick up an ornament, buy the items on the list and return them unwrapped to the store, along with the ornament attached.
Home Instead will then enlist the help of volunteers - its staff, senior care business associates, non-profit workers and others in the community - to collect, wrap and distribute the gifts to these seniors.
A citywide gift-wrapping day, when hundreds of the presents will be wrapped, will be held on Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Home Instead, located at 2222 NW 40th Terrace, Suite B, in Gainesville. "This program is a way that we can give back to our community by providing gifts and companionship to our area's older adults who have contributed so much," Fagan said. "Our goal is to bring a little love and joy of the season into their lives." Anyone wishing to volunteer to help on the citywide gift-wrapping day should contact Home Instead Senior Care at (352) 336-3388. Businesses are encouraged to contact the local Home Instead Senior Care office about adopting groups of seniors.

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