"It is often said that 'Christmas is for children,' but we want to make sure our seniors aren't overlooked," said Lucy Novelly of a program called Be a Santa to a Senior.
"There are several wonderful programs that help provide presents for children, but many seniors need things as well ... the holidays are for them, too," she said.
Ms. Novelly is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care locations in South Hills and Washington. All of the Home Instead Pittsburgh locations are partnering with nonprofit agencies and retail stores to provide gifts for senior citizens here this holiday season. The partnerships ensure that needy seniors are identified, gifts are purchased and the wrapped gifts are distributed.
"We've done this for several years, and it really touches not only those we give to, but everyone involved," she said.
Numerous nonprofits identify seniors who may not have family or those with families who are struggling financially and provide the information to the Home Instead offices. The seniors may live at home or in health-care facilities.
Home Instead puts the information on ornaments that are placed on Christmas trees in a number of retail locations. Shoppers may select an ornament, purchase a gift and drop it off at participating locations.
"It couldn't be easier,"' Ms. Novelly said.
Home Instead staffers pick up the gifts and have wrapping parties, another way for volunteers to participate. Anyone wishing to lend a helping hand can come to one of the parties and help wrap.
Wrapped gifts are taken to the nonprofits, which deliver them.
"One woman received beautiful towels, and she cried because someone was so generous," Mrs. Novelly said.
Tim Lyon, co-owner of the Home Instead in Zelienople, said he has heard from recipients that Senior Santa gifts may be the only ones they receive during a holiday season.
"We like to think everyone gets gifts, but some of these folks don't have any family," he said.
Mr. Lyon's Home Instead office serves Butler, Beaver and parts of Armstrong counties. He works with the Big Lots store in Rochester and said the store helps by putting the Christmas tree in an obvious location and then sorting the gifts for collection.
"They are wonderful to work with and help us get the word out," he said.
Meals on Wheels of Peters is one of a number of organizations that act as a liaison between Home Health Care and the seniors.
"We have clients who would spend the holiday alone, without any gifts," director Susan Hanawalt said. "They can get very lonely during the holidays," she said.
Mrs. Hanawalt has delivered gifts to her clients over the past few years, and it is now part of her own holiday tradition.
"Our folks are surprised, amazed and delighted. They can't believe that someone they don't know would buy them gifts," she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org