Be A Santa To A Senior

Valley Program Needs Help Providing Gifts

Posted: December 8, 2012

Volunteer Elizabeth Estep of Mount Jackson wraps presents for the Be a Santa to a Senior program in Harrisonburg on Friday afternoon. (Photos by Nikki Fox)
Phyllis Friesen of Harrisonburg wraps gifts for the Be a Santa to a Senior program Friday. The program is sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care and the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
Volunteers wrap presents and put them in bags decorated by Rockingham County elementary school students for the Be a Santa to a Senior program Friday afternoon.

HARRISONBURG — Among the Valley residents who will rip open gifts this year for Christmas are 1,200 seniors who, had it not been for a local charity drive, would not have had the chance.


Be a Santa to a Senior, sponsored locally by Home Instead Senior Care and the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, is doing a last-minute push to make sure all the seniors on the list get “adopted.”


“The next five days, we get slammed,” said Jeanne Russell, director of marketing and community relations for Home Instead Senior Care, surrounded by gifts and wrapping paper at a temporary headquarters off Port Republic Road in Harrisonburg.


“We work really hard to get people what they need,” she said.


The program helps about 1,200 seniors in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro and in Rockingham, Rockbridge and Augusta counties, who are identified by local social workers for the program. About 520 of those are in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Russell said.


The elderly eligible for the program could live at home or in a nursing home, but Russell said almost all have little or no family.


“For many of these people, this will be the only gift they get at Christmas,” she said.


Most included in the program aren’t looking for anything special.


“It’s usually personal care items,” said Russell, adding that those who do not want to purchase a whole gift could buy such items as shaving cream, shampoo, toothpaste, socks or lap blankets to donate.


Russell hopes to have the last 50 seniors adopted as soon as possible; gifts are due no later than Wednesday. People who want to participate can find paper tags with gift lists written on them at both Harrisonburg-area Walmart stores. Once gifts are purchased, they can be turned in directly to Walmart customer service.


“Even if they buy a gift card, we can buy what we need,” she said. “This would not happen if the community did not step up.”


Lend A Hand


To help wrap gifts, visit the Harrisonburg Be a Santa to a Senior headquarters, located next to Vito’s Italian Kitchen in the Food Lion shopping center off Port Republic Road. Monday and Wednesday, wrapping will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. On Tuesday and Thursday, gifts will be wrapped from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.


Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or

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