Holiday program finds gifts for Tri-State seniors who may never receive them

MASON, Ohio -- Kids aren’t the only ones who appreciate a little gift under the Christmas tree, as thousands of senior citizens in the Tri-State spend the holidays alone each year.

That’s why a national senior care network is putting up trees filled with paper ornaments at eight locations Thursday—to reach hundreds of lonely seniors in Butler, Warren and northern Hamilton counties who struggle financially and aren’t accustomed to receiving holiday gifts.   

“These are low-income seniors who will not buy anything for themselves,” said Marilyn Walls, a service coordinator at a low-income senior housing facility in Mt. Healthy.

The concept, “Be a Santa to a Senior” is simple—fulfill the holiday wish lists of about 200 senior citizens from low-income senior housing communities and skilled nursing homes across Greater Cincinnati. It’s an annual program organized by the Home Instead Senior Care Network in Mason, and it runs from Nov. 22 to Dec. 16.

Community members select a senior by pulling off a paper ornament from a Christmas tree at one of the eight program locations at participating YMCA, Walgreens and a few other stores in Mason, West Chester and Maineville. Each tag includes the first name of a senior, and up to two gifts on their wish list.

Their wish lists are modest:

Hand lotion, kitchen towels, reading glasses, slippers and flashlights.  

“I think the simplicity of the gift request indicates how difficult it sometimes is for a senior to get out and get these things for themselves,” said Sue Shroder, director of marketing for Home Instead Senior Care.

Those gifts, dropped off un-wrapped under the same trees where the request was received, will then be wrapped and delivered to five local senior care facilities on Dec. 19 and 20.

Although the gifts are just small, program coordinators say their impact on each senior is immense.

“Their eyes light up, the smile on their face, the thank yous and sometimes even a few tears,” said Walls, who distributes gifts to 40 seniors at the Mt. Healthy senior care facility. “They’re left behind, and so when they get these gifts, its not so much the gift, it’s that someone remembered to give them a gift. It’s amazing.”

Shroder said the gift giver and the senior remain anonymous throughout the whole program to protect the dignity of those who participate.

Click here to find a list of Be a Santa for a Senior tree locations in the Tri-State.                                               

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