AUSTIN - The holiday season for many is a time to spend with family and loved ones, but for some seniors, they don't have these relationships anymore. This is where the holiday program "Be a Santa to a Senior" steps in.
Home Instead Senior Care has a set of locally owned franchise offices across the country that work to help families keep their aging mother, father, grandparents or friends in their homes as they grow older. The Austin franchise held a "wrapping party" Tuesday where volunteers packed up gifts for senior citizens around the area.
Tyson Murphy is the owner and administrator of the Austin office and said he couldn't believe how much the people of Austin provided this holiday season.
"I would tell you there's only so much that one person can do, but when you see this collaborative effort and you recognize the importance of the agencies that pick up the gifts, it touches them," Murphy said.
Different elderly care facilities stopped by The First Baptist Church of Georgetown Tuesday to pick up these wrapped gifts, including members from Estrella Oaks Rehabilitation and Care Center. Estrella Oaks has participated in this event for a handful of years now. Jeff Brown is this center's activity director and said they will be handing out their gifts on Christmas Day.
"A lot of times, the family isn't able to make it on Christmas Day itself or they bring the Christmas gifts early to their loved ones," Brown said. "When we hand them these gifts, their eyes get real big. Some of the residents who haven't really responded in a while, as soon as they see the bright colors on the bags and the drawings, they open it up and they're really excited."
All of the gifts were donated by the residents in the Central Austin area and will be given back to seniors in the same area. June Scott is 90-years-old and volunteered Tuesday afternoon with some of her family members to pack up these presents.
"It has just been fascinating," Scott said. "When you see this outpouring, you know there's a Santa Claus up there somewhere."
Students from Jarrell Independent School District even decorated the bags so that every present has a special drawing on it.
"It brings a little Christmas spirit -- whether they are alone or maybe just the holiday season isn't what it used to be," Murphy said. "It gives them something to celebrate."
This group hopes this can help isolated seniors who are at a greater risk for loneliness and depression this holiday season. In all, 700 seniors in the Central Texas area will be surprised with a gift this year.
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