Although the world gearing up to spend the holidays with family near and far, for some area seniors, Christmas can be the loneliest day of the year.
But “Santa for Seniors,” a Rome-Floyd County initiative co-coordinated by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office and Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation, will be providing more than 80 lone seniors with Christmas gifts this season.
However, donations are still needed for about 15 seniors whose Christmas wish-lists are not yet complete.
“It’s a really great program,” said Jimmy Allred of the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. “When you go out and deliver gifts to these people… just a little bit makes them so happy. It’s the fact that people care about them.”
The idea for the program began 10 years ago when Allred was picking up his grandmother on Christmas from the Golden Living Center and saw another resident sitting outside. Later that night when Allred brought his grandmother back to the center, the woman was still sitting outside, alone. Allred asked a Golden Living employee what was going on with the resident.
“[The employee] told me she was waiting for someone to visit her, but no one ever came. She didn’t have anybody,” Allred said. “That just got to me.”
The next year, Allred was able to help provide two seniors in similar circumstances with gifts for the holidays. The year after that, he said Tammy Bryant, special populations coordinator for Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation, provided him with the names of more seniors, serving 10 that year. Now, what started out as a small project has snowballed over the course of a decade into a full-fledged program.
Bryant said approximately 72 seniors were served in 2014 through “Santa for Seniors.” Seniors are nominated by locals and must fit the criteria of living alone and not having family or friends nearby who visit or give during the holidays. The program’s criteria is not income-based. Participating seniors may live in their own homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement centers or other facilities. Up to $30-$40 is spent on each senior through the program.
“We go by specific items provided on the nomination forms,” Bryant said of the gifts seniors receive. “For example, this year, a lady needed towels, socks, slippers and she wanted a silk poinsettia. One year, we served a man, and all he wanted was a new pair of overalls. This one lady collected Boston Terrier figurines, and she wanted one. We always try to get something for them that they will truly enjoy and benefit from.”
Monetary donations along with items such as toiletries, pajamas, socks and slippers are appreciated, but because specific donations are needed to complete the wish-lists for this year’s seniors, those interested in sponsoring a senior are asked to contact Bryant or Allred for details.
Bryant can be reached at 706.234.0383, and Allred can be reached at 706.291.4111.