They start appearing in late November and early December. Armed with bags of presents and infectious laughs, Santas fulfill an irreplaceable role during the holidays. They laugh with joy, consume a few cookies, their bellies shake, and, somehow, people begin to feel charitable and kind toward one another. People temporarily forget the petty fights and rivalries that consume the other 11 months of the year, and remember that they're human. This year, Home Instead Senior Care a local provider of non-medical home care and companionship for older adults offers everyone in the community the opportunity to be a Santa.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF HOME INSTEAD SENIOR CARE
- ORNAMENTATION : "Be a Santa to a Senior" Christmas trees around the county feature ornaments with the names and gift requests of needy seniors.
# The Be a Santa To a Senior program debuted in San Luis Obispo last year, when 190 isolated, needy, and lonely seniors living in SLO County received Christmas gifts. The response from the community has already been so great this year that volunteers are estimating that they can help around 240 seniors though they still need the names of another 20 or so needy seniors to participate. Home Instead Senior Care begins the program by identifying seniors in need. Local nonprofits like Life Steps Foundation a Division of Linkages, Caring Callers, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Association suggest names of seniors who might not otherwise receive holiday gifts. Home Instead Senior Care identifies businesses willing to host Christmas trees for the program. Holiday shoppers can visit locations that have trees, select an ornament with an individual name and gift request, purchase the requested present, and return it to the location where they got the ornament. Though each person is allowed to request his or her own gift, Home Instead Senior Care employees recognize a definite trend.
"The seniors living in residential facilities are actually requesting little radios with headsets, so they don't disturb their neighbors," explained Tiffany Alcantara, manager of the Home Instead Senior Care office in San Luis Obispo County. "For the seniors that are living at home: videos, books, and gift certificates for books."
Due to the high costs of medicine, many seniors request gift certificates to stores like Albertsons, and receiving a Christmas gift certificate is as much a matter of financial survival as it is holiday cheer.
"Some of the seniors have to choose between prescriptions and groceries," Alcantara said.
This year, trees are located at Dr. Robert Pull's office in Arroyo Grande, the KSBY Studio, Zadock's Coffee House in Pismo Beach, Mid-State Bank in Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande, the Pismo Beach Police Department, Central Coast Mitsubishi in Atascadero, and Dr. Leopold and Murphy's office in San Luis Obispo. People can pick up as many or as few ornaments as they like, but all presents and ornaments need to be brought in by Thursday, Dec. 7.
On Dec. 10, Home Instead Senior Care is hosting a citywide gift-wrapping party from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Steamers of Pismo. Ace Hardware in Grover Beach and Susie's Hallmark in Arroyo Grande donated wrapping paper for the event, and Alcantara is hoping for a sizable volunteer turnout, given that there will be hundreds of presents to wrap. Between Dec. 11 and 14, volunteers will deliver presents to participants.
With people already picking up ornaments at a fast rate, Alcantara hopes that this season's success will allow her to continue the program's expansion next year. She estimates that there are several thousand seniors living in SLO County who would qualify to participate in the program. As much as she would like to see them all receive presents, any expansion must be paced by the amount of interest the community expresses. Her plans for next year include involving a local retailer, which would allow volunteer Santas to pick up an ornament in the same store where they could purchase a present. This minimizes the risk of people losing or forgetting about their ornaments.
"I think people just need to realize that to reach out and help somebody is the right thing to do," Alcantara said. "Once people are shut in, we just kind of forget about them."
Anyone interested in volunteering for the citywide gift-wrapping party or signing up for a Be a Santa to a Senior tree for next year can contact Alcantara at 296-2411, Ext. 2.
Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach compiled this week's Strokes & Plugs. Send your business news to firstname.lastname@example.org.