2016-12-21 / Featured / News

Gift drive targets seniors in need


Brandermill Woods’ Mary Hodges, Tomeka Scott and Trisha Paris with resident Hazel Gosney (sitting) in front of the “Be a Santa to a Senior” Christmas tree. 
ASH DANIEL Brandermill Woods’ Mary Hodges, Tomeka Scott and Trisha Paris with resident Hazel Gosney (sitting) in front of the “Be a Santa to a Senior” Christmas tree. ASH DANIEL A fter 141 years serving Richmond’s senior population, Little Sisters of the Poor is making a change: For the first time, it will take part in the “Be a Santa to a Senior” gift drive.

The gift drive involves hanging tags on Christmas trees – each tag includes a senior’s name and gift request – to get the word out. Those gifts are then collected and distributed to the area seniors who requested them.

Seniors cared for at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s St. Joseph’s Home in Henrico will receive gifts from the drive for the first time this year. The Roman Catholic order provides nursing beds, assisted living and independent living housing for the area’s elderly poor, most of whom are Medicaid recipients.

“Some residents do have families, but a lot of them don’t, and some families don’t come very much,” says the organization’s Sister Rosemarie Yao. “By giving them gifts, it’s telling them that they’re important, that they’re loved and they’re thought about.”

The national gift drive is orchestrated by Home Instead Senior Care, and has operated in the Richmond area for the past eight years. Each year, the senior care company reaches out to organizations that serve lower-income seniors, asking for names and gift requests. Those requests are written on tags and placed on Christmas trees at partnering locations. Donors fill those requests, and the gifts are then collected and distributed before Christmas.

“The biggest request we get is for clothes,” says Stephanie Derry, client care manager for Home Instead Senior Care in Richmond. “They also ask for some household items. This year we’ve had requests for bed linens. Sometimes they ask for small heaters, blankets to keep them warm.”

This year’s participating organizations include Senior Connections, Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Francis Home, Brandermill Woods, The Memory Center, The Crossings at Bon Air, Our Lady of Hope, Lakewood and the Walgreens at Chippenham Hospital. Local fire departments also participate, delivering gifts to seniors’ homes and offering home fire inspections while they visit. This year, more than 225 seniors will receive gifts through the program.

Brandermill Woods has participated for the past four years.

“It’s really nice, and the staff does a great job of contributing,” says Trisha Paris, director of resident services at Brandermill Woods. “Everybody really steps up and makes a donation. The stuff that they’re asking for could be as simple as a six-pack of Coca-Cola to toiletries and slippers, hats, gloves and scarfs for the winter. It’s real simple.”

Yao says the program is a way to let seniors know that they aren’t forgotten.

“Holidays are very difficult for residents, because they don’t see their families,” Yao says. “If they get gifts, it shows that people are thinking of them.” ¦

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