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Santa program provides assistance to seniors during holiday season

December 20, 2011
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Senior gift requests are expected to be up again this holiday season amid worries about the threat of declining benefits and the economy.

Be a Santa to a Senior, the popular campaign that has delivered 1.5 million gifts to needy seniors throughout North America during the past seven years, is gearing up again this holiday, according to the Home Instead Senior Care network, the world's largest provider of non-medical, in-home care services for seniors.

The program relaunches during a time when already-nervous seniors faced the threat of Social Security payment delays as part of the debt-ceiling debate earlier this year. These older adults have lost nearly one-third (32 percent) of their buying power since 2000, according to the Annual Survey of Senior Costs from The Senior Citizens League, a senior advocacy organization.

The area office of the Home Instead Senior Care network, the world's largest provider of non-medical in-home care and companionship services for older adults, has partnered with GraceWorks Unlimited, and several businesses to provide gifts and companionship to seniors who otherwise might not receive either this holiday season.

In North America, the program has attracted upwards of 65,000 volunteers during the past seven years distributing gifts to deserving seniors. Since introducing the Be a Santa to a Senior program, the Home Instead Senior Care network has helped provide gifts to more than 750,000 seniors.

"Older adults continue to struggle in a down economy, particularly those who live alone with no family nearby," said Sue Bidwell, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care offices serving Southwest Florida. Here's how the program works: Before the holiday season, the participating local nonprofit organizations will identify needy and isolated seniors in the community and provide those names to the local Home Instead Senior Care office for this community service program. Christmas trees, which will go up in several area businesses (see complete list with addresses below) on Nov. 1 through Dec. 15th, will feature ornaments with the first names only of the seniors and their gift requests.

Holiday shoppers can pick up an ornament, buy items on the list and return them unwrapped to the store, along with the ornament attached. Home Instead Senior Care then enlists the volunteer help of its staff, senior-care business associates, nonprofit workers and others to collect, wrap and distribute the gifts.

"Be a Santa to a Senior is a way to show our gratitude to those older adults who have contributed so much to our community," Bidwell said. "We hope to reach out to many with this gesture of holiday cheer and goodwill. We know holiday shoppers will open their hearts to those seniors who have given so much to make our community a better place," she added.

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering to help with the community gift-wrapping event, contact Laura Gillian at 941-505-0450. Businesses are encouraged to contact the local Home Instead Senior Care office about adopting groups of seniors. For tree locations, or for more information about the program, visit



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