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Be a Santa to a Senior Provides Cheer for the Holiday Season

One holiday season, Melissa Rhoton, HMG Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine Manager, plucked an ornament off of the gift tree, prepared to answer the Christmas wish of an area senior. She was quickly struck by the senior’s request, one that she couldn’t wrap in a box or tie with a bow: it simply asked for a prayer.

Click for WJHL videoWJHL VIDEO: Melissa Rhoton

Melissa was inspired and dove into learning more about the Be a Santa to a Senior program behind the gift tree, initiated by Home Instead. She has enjoyed shopping to provide holiday cheer to home-bound seniors, those in assisted living, and citizens whose families aren’t around to join them during the festive season, and has helped make HMG an essential partner in this initiative.

“Really, our heart just went out to these people,” says Melissa. “While Christmas celebrations can be focused around children, seniors who don’t have the opportunity or means to be around loved ones sometimes go unnoticed. It’s important we recognize these seniors and help make their holiday celebration as special as our own.”

Finding the Holiday Spirit

The Be a Santa to a Senior program was created in 2003 to provide the seniors served by Home Instead with additional kindness during Christmastime.

Melissa Rhoton & Kelli Ward

“There is a big need for seniors to have this means for outreach and the opportunity to receive community love during the Christmas holiday season,” says Kelli Ward, home care coordinator with Home Instead in Kingsport, Tennessee.

During the year, Home Instead provides care services to home-bound seniors, allowing them to remain in the comfort of their family home as they age. Trained CAREgivers with Home Instead provide everything from personal care to transportation to chronic illness care. The Home Instead values align closely with those at HMG: to provide compassion and empathy in all stages of care.

So when it came to the holiday season, and a need arose to make sure that seniors who didn’t have families nearby were still taken care of with gifts and good cheer, HMG jumped at the chance to help. As the program started, Home Instead took referrals from seniors all around the community, even those not served by CAREgivers.

“These referrals are coming to us from many different areas, including assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and different respite homes,” Kelli says. “Plus, we have a whole gamut of places and facilities that we work with to help carry out our mission.”

Hearts Full of Cheer

The original list of seniors looking for a Santa in 2003 started at 150. This year, it has reached 1,000.

Santa Gift

HMG continues to support Be a Santa to a Senior and other charity-driven programs through its Mission into Motion initiative. The company-wide program identifies volunteers within HMG that support local nonprofits, schools, and churches across the area.

The simple act of taking on a special request shared on an ornament from a Home Instead gift tree remains important to HMG volunteers like Melissa.

“Our passion for helping others extends beyond our offices,” she says. “We see a lot of seniors who are homeless or alone and don’t have anyone to help care for them. We see them come and go, and anything we can do to help brighten their day is always a blessing to see.”

“It could be any one of us,” Melissa continues. “It’s our responsibility to step up and help care for others, and we always have a special place in our heart for the seniors.”

How to Become a Santa to a Senior

Santa’s Helpers have been filling these ornament requests fast for the 2021 holiday season. Every year, Home Instead reaches out to community partners, who act quickly to start shopping.

Melissa admits that it’s difficult to keep the ornaments on the gift tree very long in the HMG office, because so many HMG team members want to wrap up a special surprise.

“This year HMG was sent 90 ornaments and they flew off the gift tree as people eagerly took two at a time!” Melissa says. “We are proud to have a team that cares so much about the seniors in our community and we were more than happy to ask for the remaining ornaments from Home Instead.”

Santa Gift

It’s not too late to give a holiday gift to a senior. In addition to company sponsors, like HMG, Kelli encourages Santa’s Helpers to spread awareness of this opportunity on social media. Viewers can receive ornaments electronically or find a local gift tree near their location.

As well as seeking prayers, popular requests from seniors include grocery gift cards, pajamas, sweatsuits, toiletries, and robes. Most requests average about $30 each, but the payoff is worth so much more.

“We are a small office of people who put this together, but we are able to do this because of the support we receive from organizations like HMG and the joyous effect we see on the faces of these seniors,” Kelli says. “The emotions that unfold each year are overwhelmingly happy. What may seem like a simple gift actually means the world to these seniors who might not have received a gift otherwise. It is an honor to be a part of this experience.”

Consider joining HMG and becoming a Santa to a senior this holiday season. Visit the Home Instead website for more details on how to donate.