A Santa Claus for the young at heart

Program provides gifts to isolated seniors

— There was a man who took part in Home Instead’s Be a Santa to a Senior program a few years ago who just wanted a bed for Christmas.

He slept on a futon. It was old and worn, and the mattress was so thin that he was essentially sleeping on the metal bars. His hips were a mess.

The thing is, the Be a Santa to a Senior program generally deals in smaller gifts. It’s common for seniors to ask for warm clothes, maybe some socks or mittens. Requests are written on paper ornaments that are hung on trees throughout the community, and holiday shoppers select an ornament and fulfill the wish.

So organizers decided they’d break up the man’s bed request. They’d put the frame on one ornament, the mattress on another, sheets on another. It still seemed like a long shot, but hey. Maybe a few shoppers would have an extra dose of holiday cheer to spare.

Sure enough, Maureen Hopkins, Home Instead’s general manager, got a call that the man was going to get his bed. A woman informed Hopkins she had bought it.

Great, Hopkins said. Which part had she bought?

No, the woman clarified. She bought the whole bed. Box spring, mattress, linens ... everything.

The woman explained that she had been very fortunate in life. She had promised herself that if she’d ever heard of someone wanting for something as basic as a bed, she’d buy it.

Hopkins told that story to illustrate the generosity that is the undercurrent of the Be a Santa to a Senior program, entering its ninth year. Run by Home Instead Senior Care, a company that helps seniors stay in their homes by providing non-medical in-home care services, the program provides gifts to isolated seniors. Hopkins said people often mistakenly think the program caters to Home Instead clients. That’s not the case. Home Instead reaches out to local agencies like the Office for Aging, Catholic Charities and CareLinks to find seniors who could benefit from the program. The agencies then get gift ideas from the seniors, and those ideas are printed on the paper ornaments.

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