By Ellen Bartyzal
Throughout the holiday season, many people gather together with friends and family to celebrate the festivities and exchange gifts. Though many people enjoy this cheerful time, others are often forgotten and left to face the holidays on their own.
Those who are forgotten are often our isolated senior citizens.
In an effort to lift their spirits during the season, Gifts for Seniors works to bring gifts and, more importantly, social interactions to many seniors across the Twin-Cities metro area. Throughout the winter months many local agencies go to Gifts for Seniors to shop for gifts for abandoned seniors in their community. The gifts that are selected are many times given out at holiday parties that some of the seniors are able to attend.
In December at the Minneapolis Volunteers of America (VOA) Park ElderCenter’s Wellness Christmas Luncheon, over 40 of these often forgotten seniors got to experience a holiday celebration filled with socializing, gifts and immense joy with the help of Gifts for Seniors.
For the event, two staff members from VOA hand-selected 150 gifts for the seniors attending all of which were supplied by Gifts for Seniors. The two organizations have created a long-standing relationship of more than seven years. The gifts that were chosen for attendees of the event varied from items such as clothing, socks, towels, bedding, small appliances and more. The bulk of the gifts included necessary items that some of the seniors were not able to obtain themselves.
Some of the attendees commented on what it felt like receiving the gifts that had been donated from members within their community.
“It makes me feel special because seniors are delegated to one corner of society,” said Willie Maedemmings, one of the seniors attending. “So, since someone thinks about us, it makes me feel very blessed. It makes us feel like real, live, living people who are involved in [the community].”
Josephine Bunton, another senior attending, started tearing up while expressing her gratitude for the generosity of the community.
“It feels really good,” said Bunton. “I tend to get a little weepy during the season and the fact that someone is thinking about me makes me feel so special.”
In order to make these seniors feel so special, someone has to be thinking of them and shopping for the gifts that they would need. One of the people who worked hard this year doing just that is Pat Jones a Senior Resource Specialist at VOA.
Though Jones shops for gifts that can be distributed at social events for able-bodied seniors, she also sees the importance of reaching out to those who are homebound who cannot engage in community gatherings.
“This program [Gifts for Seniors] really helps our seniors because some of them would not get anything [for Christmas],” Jones said. “We give these gifts to a lot of homebound seniors that can’t even get out to come to these events. I really believe that it makes them feel like someone cares and that they weren’t forgotten. I think Gifts for Seniors is a wonderful program and if more people could experience the job that we do and the hugs that we get from these people, they’d see it is really worthwhile.”