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‘Be a Santa’: Look out for forgotten seniors during Christmas season

Thoughts of Christmas may center on children, their eyes bright with an overabundance of excitement as they wait to open presents from Santa.

But there is a part of our society that sometimes gets forgotten — senior citizens.

“What surprised us early on was that that you assume Christmas is just for kids and you don’t really think of anyone else. That’s what you center around in the season,” Charlie Holder said. “What shocked me is that there are people in our own backyard… who had not had a visit or a phone call to tell them Merry Christmas. Not one, not any human being.”

Holder, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, is talking about a day he and his family delivered gifts to homebound senior citizens. Of the five households they went to, three had seniors who had not been wished Merry Christmas, heard from a loved one or received a gift.

Be a Santa to a Senior

To help a homebound senior it’s as easy as taking a tag from a tree and buying a gift.

Home Instead Senior Care has partnered with Nutrition and Services for Seniors Meals on Wheels, Orange Community Center, several home health agencies, hospices and other local businesses and agencies to help with gift collection and distribution.

Janet Gunter, manager of Home Instead, said there are 85 locations spread through Port Arthur, Mid-County, Beaumont and other areas of Jefferson, Orange and parts of Hardin counties with Christmas trees containing tags with a wish list of a senior citizen. Participants can get a tag and buy the gift and bring it back to the location where it will be picked up, wrapped and distributed.

Gift wishes vary from person to person.

In the past they have seen requests from the homebound seniors for sheets, new dinnerware or plates, sweaters and warm-ups.

Other requests are from women who want jewelry; some want snack baskets and others want CDs and a CD player.

“Last year we had a person ask for an electrician,” she said, a request that was taken care of. “One year someone asked for a bicycle because it was his only way of transportation.”

Holder said his company receives no royalties and 100 percent of donations and gifts go to the seniors, not his clients. Home Instead is a private business.

This marks the program’s 17th year and in that time over 26,000 local seniors have been served.

The senior trees are at various CVS and Walgreens in Port Arthur and Nederland, Market Basket stores in Mid County, Bronze Body locations and more.

To see a list of all of the local retailers participating go to beasantatoasenior.org.

Deadlines and dates for distribution are listed at the sponsoring locations.