Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Santa to a Senior Begins 7th Year

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Santa to a Senior Begins 7th Year

Article excerpt

A few pairs of socks, a blanket and a candle make their way off the shelves, change hands a few times and are finally nestled into boxes, secured with festive wrap.

A present like this may not seem like much, but it'll mean something to somebody -- it means even more if it's the only gift you get that year.

Home Instead Senior Care's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program, back for its seventh year, aims to make sure older adults in need have a gift in hand.

Local nonprofits and community groups partner with the company to help identify seniors who are living alone and may not otherwise receive presents during the holidays. Home Instead then reaches out to local businesses to encourage them to place trees and ornaments at their locations.

Each senior's request is written on an ornament and placed on the tree. Shoppers can then pluck a name from the tree, purchase the gift and return it to the business where the ornament tree is located.

Mark Belding, spokesman for Home Instead of South Hills and Washington County, said around here, seniors' most requested gifts are socks and slippers, retail gift cards and, of course, Steelers gear.

In seven years, the Be a Santa program nationwide has counted 60,000 volunteers delivering more than 1.2 million gifts to 700,000 seniors.

More than 400 gifts were donated to the Washington County Home Instead location alone last year, Mr. Belding said.

"It gives you a really warm feeling to be able to do that, even though the gift was donated from someone we'll probably never meet," Mr. Belding said.

Dianne Durbin, 71, of Washington, received a gift from the Be a Santa program last year. Heart problems forced retirement from her receptionist job at AAA earlier than she might have hoped. Money has been tight.

Seniors in the program usually make anonymous requests for gifts through Home Instead or other area senior groups, but Ms. …

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