Trees plant idea of giving to seniors

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Several stores across the Golden Triangle have been participating in “Be a Santa to a Senior,” a senior outreach program created by Home Instead Senior Care.

The program involves participating stores putting up Christmas trees garnished with ornaments that have a senior citizen’s name and item or items from their wish list. A person interested in participating in the program then takes the ornament, buys the item on the senior’s wish list and returns it to the store unwrapped. From there, the gift items are collected, wrapped and distributed by volunteers to seniors at various locations.

“It’s the thirteenth year that we’ve had this program,” Jerald Stewart, community liaison for Home Instead Senior Care, said. “We’re trying to serve 3,000 folks (in Southeast Texas) this year.”

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Stewart said the program is a way to reach out to seniors who may not receive gifts very often or at all.

“Some seniors do not get gifts very often,” Stewart said. “One gentleman who we brought a present to was crying. We asked him ‘Why?’ and he said it was the first present he had received in six to seven years.”

Sometimes the gifts appear to be driven by necessity.

“We had one gentleman several years ago who wanted a bicycle,” Stewart said. “We asked him ‘Why?’ and he said he needed it to ride to the grocery store…

“So, someone bought it for him and (it) allowed him to go to the store.”

Stewart emphasized the giving nature of both the program and the holidays.

“What we’re encouraging is for people to buy a gift, bring it back to the store and bring it to seniors.”

Stewart said several of the volunteers and organizations who help them are people who live in the area.

Seniors who live at home, in assisted living facilities, nursing homes or are recipients of Meals on Wheels are some of the individuals helped by the program.

“For me, the thing that makes it special when so many elderly are passed over or forgotten is just people coming in and blessing someone for Christmas time,” Mike Hartt, store manager of Bruce’s Market Basket in Groves, said.

“And I think it’s a good thing for people to do a kind gesture.”

Hartt estimated that the tree in the store originally started with 25 to 30 ornaments, and all of them had been taken for a donation in two to three weeks.

“I think many people know of someone in a nursing home,” Alan Singleton, store manager of Walgreens in Port Neches, said. “It’s nice to be able to give a little cheer for the holiday season.”

Singleton estimated that their store tree had been up for about a week to a week and a half and had 30 ornaments on it before they had all been taken.

Singleton said that some people even place notes or holiday cards with their donated gifts to make it more personal.