Senior Santa

A Senior Santa Christmas tree has been placed near the front of both Frederick Walmarts. Shoppers can choose a card from the tree and purchase the gift that is suggested on the card. The gifts will be distributed to area senior citizens.

Frederick residents can purchase holiday gifts until Dec. 10 for local seniors who may not otherwise receive them.

For the 14th year, the community is participating in the Be a Santa to a Senior Program. Organized through Home Instead — a senior home care provider with locations across the country — and local senior residence communities, the effort aims to “brighten the lives of older adults who may feel alone during the season,” said Frederick Home Instead owner Brad Snively.

Shoppers may notice decorated Christmas trees inside both area Walmarts.

Each tree is adorned with ornaments featuring seniors’ first names and gift suggestions for them. Customers can choose an ornament, buy the requested gift, and return it unwrapped to the store, with the ornament attached.

Home Instead takes care of wrapping and distributing the gifts, Snively said, which will arrive before Christmas.

Snively anticipates providing gifts to at least 150 seniors this year across Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties. As of Tuesday, he said the group had already received about 75 percent of its requested gifts, and was looking for ways to distribute more than planned if donations kept flowing in.

“We’ve been through quite a challenge with COVID,” Snively said. “And I think the community has really stepped up this year.”

Typically, the seniors’ gift requests are for necessity items like food, clothing or blankets, Snively said. The most extravagant thing he can remember providing was an air fryer.

Purchasing the gifts has become a tradition for many Frederick County families, Snively added.

Last year, the pandemic forced the program to reduce its operations to a bare minimum. And people noticed.

“The community was reaching out to us, saying, ‘Where’s the tree? Can we give? Can we do this?’” Snively recalls. “We’ve really been blessed.”

This year, Home Instead partnered with Daybreak Adult Center, Brunswick House Senior Apartments, Bell Court Senior Apartments, and Adult Evaluation and Review Services. The staff at those facilities collect the seniors’ names and gift requests.

In the wake of the virus-induced isolation, gift-giving this year may be even more meaningful than before, Snively said.

“It’s truly gratifying,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event, and it’s a tradition that I hope we can continue for years to come.”

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

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