While many holiday-giving efforts focus on the younger set, one local campaign aims to ‘Be a Santa to a Senior.’ For a decade, Home Instead Senior Care in Hernando County has joined its corporate family in providing a happy holiday for seniors who otherwise would have nothing under the Christmas tree. “The people we help might be needy seniors or those whose families don’t visit them,” said Maureen Riser, franchise owner at Home Instead Senior Care in Spring Hill.
Here’s how it works – trees and wreaths are placed at 16 locations throughout Hernando: businesses, restaurants and nonprofit agencies. Each tree boasts several paper ornaments, with each ornament containing the three-item wishlist of a local senior in need. The public is invited to take an ornament, shop for the items needed and drop them off at either the tree-hosting location at which they attained the ornament or at the Home Instead office at 8356 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill.
Program beneficiaries and gift requests come from churches, senior care centers, families and friends, the Hernando Sheriff’s Care Line and others. “It’s sad; some of these requests are so minimal,” said Riser. “Toilet paper. Blankets. Robes. Socks. Slippers. Soap. Deodorant.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some seniors request perfume and cologne, body wash, DVD movies (one senior in particular requested ‘new release comedy’ DVDs), snacks and treats, jewelry and newspaper subscriptions. Still, others ask for items that can enhance their safety, such as night lights with sensors.
Yet while the gift requests vary greatly, what remains constant is the deep appreciation of gift recipients. “We once got a note from a lady who was amazed that anyone still remembered her,” said Riser.
Answering the call to “Be Santa” for these seniors each year are church and community groups, clubs, schools (with students sometimes making cards to go with the gifts they give) and other individuals from the community.
The program also includes a festive gift-wrapping party as well! This year the party will take place at Pure Med Mobility from 1-5 pm on Dec. 16 at 1125 West Jefferson in Brooksville.
Aiding Riser in this yearly effort are Home Instead care coordinators Kay Snuffer, Home Care Sales Executive, and Michele Mullins, Service Coordinator; both of whom express great appreciation for the Hernando community and its support of the program–a sentiment certainly shared by Maureen Riser.
“We’ve never been turned down by anyone we asked to host a tree or wreath,” said Riser. “This truly is a community effort.”
To find a Be a Santa to a Senior tree, visit the program’s Facebook page. Some locations include the YMCA, Capelli’s Salon, Home Centrix of Spring Hill, Welcome Om Center, Longhorn Steakhouse of Brooksville, the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Weeki Wachee, Bealls Outlet stores, UPS Store on Spring Hill Drive and Barclay, and more. All gifts must be procured and returned by Dec. 5.
Amber Slusser, branch executive director of YMCA of the Suncoast–Hernando County, is proud to participate in the “Be a Santa to a Senior” program.
“We started participating in the program right after I got to the branch in 2015. Home Instead had reached out to me, and I thought it was a great opportunity to lift seniors up in the community,” said Slusser. “Each year, we host an angel tree for many of our families that are on financial assistance to be able to help them, and our members are so gracious supporting that cause that I felt we would have a good response also supporting local seniors in our community. Each year our Y members look for both the youth angel tree as well as the Be A Santa to a Senior tree. It is just one more way that we can represent the social responsibility aspect of what the Y stands for.”