John Bartlett, right, director of activities and social service at Catalina Village, and caregiver Bhagi Mainali sort out names of residents from a pile of gifts they were distributing at a Christmas party last year. Catalina Village, at 5324 E. First St., is an assisted-living facility for the poor and the disabled; it's collecting furniture today and Saturday for residents.


After an unprecedented outpouring of support from Tucsonans, Catalina Village, an assisted-living complex for indigent seniors and disabled people, is asking for a little more help — not out of greed, but of need.

The community, at 5324 E. First St., is holding a “stuff the bus” furniture drive until 4:30 p.m. today and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Activities and social service director John Bartlett said about 85 percent of the residents are in wheelchairs. They’re all on the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS), a program for people with virtually no money who are at least 65 years old or are disabled.

Many of their apartments are nearly devoid of furnishings.

“Even though they’re on ALTCS and have a home, it’s still like being homeless,” Bartlett said. “You go into these empty apartments. It’s sad.”

What’s needed: sturdy, small furniture that can fit into studio or single-bedroom apartments.

Bartlett is also hoping people will donate things that will make the units more homey, such as wall hangings and other decor.

Catalina Village has been inundated with donations of clothing and other items since it made a plea for help early last month.

One donor bought a fleece hoodie for each of the residents, a woman donated a handful of Walmart gift cards, and Catalina Village is all stocked up on toiletries, Bartlett said.

The complex has about 100 residents, and many didn’t have TVs. Since the donation drive in November, every resident has a television (no fancy flat-screens, though, as staffers don’t want residents to be a target for theft).

A rummage sale last month brought in $1,100, and Bartlett said he can’t keep enough ornaments on a holiday giving tree.

Still, people continue to give.

On Thursday night Bartlett said he’s collected 105 television sets “and I got two more today.”

What makes Catalina Village stand apart from other residences for older  people and those with disabilities is how little residents have. After paying for things such as  medicine and co-pays, many have less than $30 in spending money a month.

They don’t have extra cash for outings, so Bartlett is asking for donations of tickets to local attractions and eateries, and even “food items that can be made or heated in a microwave or individual snacks,” he wrote in an email.

Bartlett, 58, who has worked at Catalina Village for more than five years, emphasized that tough circumstances forced many of the residents into their situations. For example, one is a retired teacher who had a stroke and ended up on ALTCS.

“Many people don’t know that our community is here or that there is this type of population,” he said. “These are everyday people. It could happen to any of us.”

Contact Regional Editor Tiffany Kjos at or 807-7776.