A fluffy blanket, a warm sweater or a few books can brighten the holiday season for a Tucson senior.
It works like this. Visit one of the small trees (or wreaths) set up in local businesses around Tucson. Pick one of the paper ornaments (they look like Christmas light bulbs) off the tree and then purchase the items listed for the senior named on your ornament. Then, you bring the unwrapped gift back (with the bulb!), and volunteers wrap it for your senior. And just like that. You've spread some Christmas cheer.
"The program is designed for isolated and lonely seniors around Christmas time..." says Emily Greenleaf the director of the program and the training and recruitment coordinator for Home Instead Senior Care Tucson. "Everything focuses on kids (during the holidays), and we forget about older adults."
Home Instead Senior Care's franchises provide in-home assistance to senior adults. For Be a Santa to a Senior, Home Instead works with other Tucson organizations to get the names and gift requests of seniors in need. This year, the program is working with 22 facilities to give gifts to about 1,500 seniors. Since the program began in Tucson in 2005, more than 20,000 people here have received gifts through Be a Santa to a Senior, Greenleaf says.
"This year, the most common requests were pajama sets, blankets, a lot of lounge wear and just stuff to keep warm with," Greenleaf says.
You can find gift lists at businesses including Ignite Sign Art Museum, 331 S. Olsen Ave., Spadefoot Nursery, 2831b E. Broadway, and multiple locations of Washington Federal Bank, among others. Go here for the complete list.
Greenleaf told us that many of the wish lists have already been fulfilled. Make sure to return your gifts by Saturday, Dec. 14.
You can also help wrap the gifts. Information about gift-wrapping events will be posted on Be a Santa to a Senior Tucson's Facebook page or contact Greenleaf by calling the Home Instead Senior Care Tucson office at 520-770-9943.
When they receive the presents, Greenleaf says a lot of the seniors are surprised.
"They're just so thankful," she says. "Because a lot of people get overlooked during the holiday season, they don't look forward to the holidays ... but this is a reminder that somebody is still thinking about you."
Go here for a complete list of places to pick up paper ornaments and the hours of operation. Note that the holiday weekend may affect hours.