The holidays can be a challenging time for seniors, particularly those facing solitude, stress, or coping with various life circumstances such as living alone, recent bereavement, or health issues.
This season, The Salvation Army’s Green Valley Resource Center is striving to infuse Christmas cheer into the lives of seniors through a “Senior Angel Tree” initiative.
Holly Faris, the Social Services Coordinator, highlighted that while the organization has been engaged in supporting senior angels for several years, this is the first instance of doing so locally.
“I decided here to start with 50 low-income seniors. Throughout the year I take people who either come in for assistance appointments or they’ve called with a big need, had something traumatic happen to them, and I put them on the list,” she said. “Throughout the year, I have been gathering names and we take what they need and put it into our database.”
The genesis of the idea emerged last year when Faris had recently assumed her role.
“The owner of Serenity Pilates called and said, ‘What are you doing for seniors for Christmas?’ and being two months into the job I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, what a great idea. I have no idea,’” she said. “She said, ‘I want to put up a tree and collect gift cards for seniors. Do you have seniors who are low income that you could give them to?’” She sparked the whole idea.”
Faris designed tags detailing the seniors’ ages and their specific needs or wish lists.
“What really surprised me when taking information from these seniors this year is just the basics — what I take for granted, is a luxury for them,” Faris noted. “They would really like some nice lotion or really could use a few kitchen hand towels. It’s things you don’t think about until you don’t have them.”
The collection of presents under the tree has already begun as Baja Sporting Club has generously taken on 35 tags.
During the holiday season, The Salvation Army and other nonprofits that cater to seniors frequently witness an increased demand for resources.
“I believe, especially since the onset of COVID, it has become more challenging for people to seek help – a generation that traditionally hasn’t asked for assistance,” Faris observed. “Instances such as the loss of a spouse or a severe medical diagnosis or emergency often leave them feeling helpless, not knowing where or how to seek support.”
Faris emphasized the significance of collaborative efforts among various programs and locations, including Valley Assistance Services, Green Valley Council, and the food bank, to ensure comprehensive support and referral systems.
The Senior Angel Tree initiative, for Faris, epitomizes the true essence of Christmas.
“I imagine if my grandma or parent was isolated and alone and didn’t have anyone nearby, even a greeting card and new coffee mug and hot chocolate would brighten that person’s day… just to know somebody thought of them,” she said. “That’s why Christmas is Christmas, the joy of giving and sharing with others.”