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‘Be a Santa’ provides gifts, companionship to seniors

Home Instead Senior Care, Hy-Vee offering annual Christmas program

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 12:31 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 12:32 p.m. CDT

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Each year, Home Instead Senior Care offices across the United States spread Christmas cheer to lonely or financially-challenged seniors through the “Be a Santa to a Senior” program.

Since its inception in 2006, the program has attracted more than 60,000 volunteers who have distributed 1.2 million gifts to more than 700,000 deserving seniors. The local Home Instead Senior Care office is continuing the program this year in partnership with the Newton Hy-Vee store.

“Seniors faced with medical bills and the high cost of living can find they have little left at the end of the year,” said Jonna Wisnieski, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Jasper county. “With the community’s help, this program allows us to bring joy to a senior’s life by giving them a Christmas gift with a smile and a hug.  It has been very meaningful to the seniors who have received gifts in the past.”

Last year, the local program provided 175 gifts to local seniors. The impact this has on seniors, however, can’t be overstated. Home Instead Senior Care shares the following story as an example of the “Be a Santa” program’s impact:

“In 2006, Be a Santa to a Senior volunteers visited a local nursing facility and distributed gifts to a number of residents, including one 87-year-old woman whom we’ll call Mary. She was pleased to receive her gift and thanked us profusely, but it wasn’t until we returned to give Mary another gift in 2007 that we recognized the true value of Be a Santa to a Senior.

When we entered Mary’s room for our second visit, we noticed that the only card on her bulletin board was the Be a Santa to a Senior card from the previous year. As we spoke with her caregivers we found out that our Christmas card and gift were the only items she had received throughout the year. Mary re-read the card regularly to help keep that memory alive.

Home Instead Senior Care partners with local non-profit and community organizations to identify seniors who might not otherwise receive gifts this holiday season. The company then places a tree with ornaments — upon which is the gift wish of a single senior — at the Newton Hy-Vee store.”

From there, here’s how it works:

• pick up an ornament with the first name of a senior citizen and his or her gift requests from the Christmas tree now through Dec. 17;

• buy the requested items and return them, wrapped, to the Home Instead Senior Care office at 207 First Ave. W., along with the ornament;

• local volunteers will then deliver the gifts during the week of Christmas.

“Helping a needy older adult can bring fulfillment to the giver as well as the receiver,” Wisnieski said. “It does make a difference.”

For more information about the program, visit www.beasantatoasenior.com or call (641) 792-1800.

Bob Eschliman can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 423 or via email at bschliman@newtondailynews.com.

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