Spreading holiday cheer to seniors

Twin Cities residents are showing senior citizens that they are on their minds this holiday season.

Home Instead Senior Care employees (foreground) Tammy Bongard, caregiver recruiter, and (background) Marsha Ashschlager, client care coordinator, load the Christmas packages for seniors in a vehicle before they are transported to different senior living facilities around the metro. Photo by Eric Hagen

Home Instead Senior Care employees (foreground) Tammy Bongard, caregiver recruiter, and (background) Marsha Ashschlager, client care coordinator, load the Christmas packages for seniors in a vehicle before they are transported to different senior living facilities around the metro. Photo by Eric Hagen

This was the sixth year of Home Instead Senior Care’s Be a Santa to a Senior program and it was a record year.

About 215 ornaments, each with a senior’s name and gift request, were placed on Christmas trees at the six locations from Nov. 12 to Dec. 12 and no ornaments were left, according to Melissa Howe, community service representative for Home Instead Senior Care.

The Cub Foods store at 12595 Central Ave. N.E. in Blaine was one of the six locations. Some stores requested more names because customers wanted to help even more, Howe said.

Last year, there were about 150 gifts purchased, she said.

Gift recipients include seniors who are isolated, have just experienced the loss of a loved one, are recovering from an illness, are experiencing financial difficulty or those who simply need some holiday cheer.

“It makes you stop and think about those in nursing homes and that there are people thinking about them,” said Grace Freund, a resident of Epiphany Pines in Coon Rapids.

Epiphany Pines hosted a gift wrapping party Dec. 14 and Community Thread in Stillwater had the second gift wrapping event Dec. 18.

Freund said this is her first year wrapping the presents for the Be a Santa to a Senior program and she thinks it is such a great thing.

Residents of Epiphany Pines in Coon Rapids Dec. 14 joined forces with Home Instead Senior Care staff to wrap presents for senior citizens. From Nov. 12 to Dec. 12, generous people bought gifts for 215 seniors throughout the Twin Cities as part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program. Photo by Eric Hagen

Residents of Epiphany Pines in Coon Rapids Dec. 14 joined forces with Home Instead Senior Care staff to wrap presents for senior citizens. From Nov. 12 to Dec. 12, generous people bought gifts for 215 seniors throughout the Twin Cities as part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program. Photo by Eric Hagen

Howe said it’s amazing to watch this event unfold from the time strangers buy presents to the time these senior citizens who may know some of the recipients are wrapping the presents.

“It’s become a real tradition for some people (at Epiphany Pines) and they get such a joy out of it,” Howe said.

KathyAnn Adams, marketing director for Epiphany Senior Living, said the number of gift wrapping volunteers at Epiphany Pines doubled over last year’s participation. Residents were very interested in finding out when the gift wrapping party would take place.

“There was a buzz about it this year,” Adams said.

Although Home Instead Senior care, which has an office in Blaine, is in charge of organizing the Be a Santa to a Senior program, it has numerous other partners to make this possible. They include the Blaine Senior Center, Coon Rapids Senior Center, Anoka County Community Action Program (ACCAP), Washington County Community Services, Community Thread, East Central Senior Resource Center, Canvas Health, CommonBond Communities, Lutheran Social Services and various other local non-profits, volunteers and members of the community.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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