Helping seniors at need with ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ tree

The holidays are coming, but while many will be returning to their families and spending quality time with each other, many more do not have that privilege. In fact, many of these people can barely make ends meet as it is.

The Elizabethton/Carter County Library recently set up its “Be a Santa to a Senior” tree, a program dedicated to providing low-income seniors with the materials they need to get by, as well as other gifts they might ask for.

Adult Services Coordinator Maryann Owen said this is their third year participating.

“This is for low-income seniors who often live alone and are forgotten,” Owen said.

The program, stemming from Home Instead Senior Care in Johnson City, acts similar to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. The Christmas tree holds roughly a dozen paper ornaments, each with a first name and a small list of items they want for Christmas.

Those interested in participating can simply take an ornament, obtain the items needed from the list and return the bulb to the library along with the gifts. The library asks participants to not wrap the gifts themselves, as they need to verify their contents.

Owen said the program helps serve a large need in the community.

“Last year, many of them asked for electric blankets,” she said. “It is a nice way to put a smile on a senior’s face.”

She said her favorite part of the program is to see the community rallying to support it, grouping up around the tree once they set it up.

“You see families with children,” she said. “They talk about why it is important to give.”

She said this kind of experience is crucial, in part because many people in the world tend to be selfish and do not think about others as often as they should.

However, she said projects like this are a double-edged sword.

“It feels good to be a part of it,” Owen said. “But it saddens me to see we have so much need.”

She said participants should not be concerned about running out of bulbs on the tree, as they have a stack of bulbs to replace them.

There is also a box for more miscellaneous items people can donate if they do not want to commit to a bulb, including toiletries such as toothpaste, body lotion, toilet paper and more.

“With the holidays, if you do not have family or friends, they can be depressing,” she said. “Why not put a smile on their face?”

The tree will be up until Friday, Dec. 6, the deadline for submissions. Those looking for more information about the project, including other locations in Carter County, can contact Program Coordinator Lori Frye at 423-753-5111. Home Instead Senior Care is located at 1114 Sunset Drive, Suite 3, in Johnson City.

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