Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
As the holidays are approaching, warm wishes and holiday decorations fill most homes in our community. Yet some need a little help to be merry and bright - like elderly residents who are homebound, or live alone without relatives nearby.
In 2012 Maureen Riser, a franchise owner with Home Instead Senior Care opened the first office in Hernando County and businesses like this are important for many seniors in our community who are living alone or with family members living away.
Home Instead Senior Care provides a senior program around the holidays called 'Be a Santa for A Senior' and coordinates the program with any branch that wishes to participate. This program has been a wonderful service to seniors in many communities.
“Believe it or not, I had folks that lived in Hernando County that participated with the 'Be a Santa for a Senior' program in Pasco, waiting and hoping we would have a program in Hernando,” Maureen Riser said.
Home Instead Senior Care begins preparation for 'The Be a Santa to a Senior' program in July. A request list is sent out around September to organizations, like assisted living facilities to gather information and requests from seniors.
“It will break your heart when you see their request. I had one gentleman that hadn’t had a newspaper in 15 years and would do anything for a newspaper. One gentleman wanted fruit,” Riser shared.
Businesses and organizations like UPS on Barclay and Spring Hill Drive, YMCA of Hernando County, Capelli Salon and Hernando County Sheriff's Office participate in the 'Be a Santa to a Senior' program. Tags called 'Senior Bulbs' are placed on a tree at these participating locations. Each bulb contains a senior's gift request. Community members take a bulb from the tree and purchase the requested gift. They bring the unwrapped gift and the bulb to the Home Instead Senior Care Office in Hernando County.
Hernando's 'Be a Santa to a Senior' program held their 2018 celebrity waiter fundraising event on Nov. 26 at Bonefish Grill in Brooksville.
“What we strive for is any name that we receive we make sure they get a gift,” Riser said.
She explained that the funds raised during the celebrity waiter fundraising event go to purchase gifts for any seniors whose bulb was not selected during the gift drive.
The program has been a great success in Hernando County, it has helped many seniors celebrate the holidays.
“Seniors get forgotten… life is different today,” Riser said. “We don’t have the extended family like we used to have 20-30 years ago. This is a way to say we really care about the seniors in the community that we live in.”
There is still time to contribute to Be a Santa to a Senior, please contact their office at (352) 340-5900.