Community comes together to be Santa for a senior

Kile Brewer
Posted 12/27/17

ORANGE PARK – Each Christmas Home Instead Senior Care takes up the mantle of Santa Claus for many of the seniors in its service area.

Gifts are collected each year immediately following …

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Community comes together to be Santa for a senior

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Each Christmas Home Instead Senior Care takes up the mantle of Santa Claus for many of the seniors in its service area.

Gifts are collected each year immediately following Thanksgiving and going through the week before Christmas. The Orange Park office teamed up with Whitey’s Fish Camp, Ameris Bank and Beall’s Outlet to place trees at their businesses to collect gifts. This year they wrapped 360 gift bags and delivered gifts to the residents of three Clay County senior housing centers: Oak View Rehabilitation Center in Orange Park, Governor’s Creek Nursing and Rehab in Green Cove Springs and Signature Healthcare of Jacksonville.

“Some of our residents just get overwhelmed with these gifts,” said Patti Mangefrida, the activities director at Oak View. “It really boosts their spirits to know that they are thought of and cared about during the holidays.”

Before the gift bags are placed in the residents’ hands, they are cared for and organized by dozens of volunteers from the participating donation centers and those from Home Instead and local law enforcement and emergency crews.

“Sorting takes a lot of time,” said Betsy Miller, owner of the Home Instead branch that serves Clay County and West Jacksonville. “It takes a lot of hands to put this all together.”

The bags contain everything including, jewelry, reading glasses, toiletries, puzzles, blankets, scarves, chocolates and candles. Most items are aimed at making the recipients feel warm and loved for the holidays.

“It’s amazing how the community comes together for this,” Miller said. “But for the residents, it’s not always about the gifts. They love to see a smiling face, it’s the human interaction that they like.”

One of this year’s smiling faces was Orange Park Police Department Chief Gary Goble, who delivered gifts alongside his officers and local fire department and EMS workers at Oak View. Goble has been involved in this event for more than a decade, and has watched it become more focused and effective throughout his tenure.

“It’s gone from a really big event to being more selective,” Goble said. “A lot of these people’s families don’t come visit, and some don’t get gifts at all. After we’ve been here, at least they know that somebody cares.”

After a quick group photo in the Oak View lobby, volunteers began lugging Santa-sized gift bags and carts full of presents down the hallways at the facility, visiting each room and each resident. They were met with smiling faces and gratitude as they gave out gifts as well as a few free hugs. Orange Park Fire and Rescue provided their own Santa Claus, fully dressed in the red suit, hat a beard, who greeted residents during the deliveries.

Before the deliveries began, Miller recounted one of her favorite stories from last year’s event. One woman received a gift bag that contained a letter from the person who had assembled the bag. The giver wrote that her grandmother had recently passed away and she found herself feeling down when it came time to do holiday shopping, but when she heard about the Home Instead initiative she was given a new hope. By shopping for the recipient of her gift, she was able to imagine what she would’ve bought for her grandma, and was happy to provide a warm Christmas for another person’s grandmother who might not have received anything otherwise.

Though this year’s gift deliveries have wrapped up, keep the residents in mind next year after Thanksgiving when you see the trees at Whitey’s, the bank, or Beall’s.

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