This is the link to the on-line article, North Penn Reporter, November 16th. (Please copy and paste it to your browser to read the article or read the text below.)
With holiday drives like Toys for Tots and Operation Christmas Child, children in need are often supported by the community during the holiday season. However, what about elders who can no longer take care of themselves? Do they get to experience holiday cheer?
In December 2009, Patricia Gallagher, of Chalfont, created Stories for Seniors, a program which distributes new and gently-used stuffed animals and lap blankets to offer care and comfort to seniors living in nursing homes, retirement communities, Veterans hospitals and shelters.
“I think Mother Teresa said something like ‘Do all the good you can, where you can, when you can,’ said Gallagher. “I think to help as many people as we can this year will be so rewarding to many.”
For the first time since creating Stories for Seniors, Gallagher has created Operation Secret Santa, allowing community members to give holiday gifts to those who reside in surrounding senior living centers.
“I got the idea a month ago when an activity director of a senior center in passing said 60 percent of the people who live here don’t get visitors and I thought that is a big number,” said Gallagher. “And then I realized with no visit they probably don’t get gifts.”
Until Dec. 1, Gallagher is reaching out to the community to help create and donate items which will be given to seniors throughout the region.
“I would of course love to get 650 items, but even 50 will be great,” she said. “This is really all about participation and I hope multiple families, classrooms and schools will help with this project.”
There are several ways to participate in Operation Secret Santa. One way is to take a regular size shoebox and wrap the bottom of the shoebox and then the lid with wrapping paper.
By wrapping each separately, it allows you to place items inside the box to give away. It is also important to wrap both sections separately because activity directors of local senior centers need to examine what is inside for items that may be a choking hazards or if a members has restrictive dietary issues.
Gallagher also encourages the community to fill a stocking, gift bag or other decorative containers.
Due to restrictions and forbidden lists at many senior center facilities, Gallagher thinks it is important to follow the list of items she has provided to use as potential gifts for these seniors.
“Seniors absolutely love hard candies,” she said. “Other than that everything else on this list is pretty standard. Maybe throw in a very pretty necklace because the ladies love looking nice.”
A few items that can be used for Operation Secret Santa include: box of greeting cards, stationery, pens, notepaper, stamps, large-print Bible, magazines or books, non-skid socks, slippers, housecoat, soft pajamas, shawls, sealed packages of cookies, crackers, gum, hard candies and a five dollar bill for the gift shop.
Other items Gallagher has seen a positive response for while working in senior centers, are tissue paper flowers and corsages.
“Tissue paper flowers are so nice and so easy to make,” she said. “So many people make them but everyone puts a different spin on theirs.”
Gallagher is encouraging grade school classrooms to create these flowers which can be given to local seniors. An instructional video on YouTube is available to learn the simple, easy steps.
“(The seniors) get so excited for little tissue paper corsages and little gifts, it means so much to them,” said Gallagher. “They attach the flowers to their walkers or put it in their hair. They make things really pretty.”
Community members wanting to participate in Operation Secret Santa can collect create and drop off items to Patricia Gallagher at 106 Heath Court in Chalfont. To set up a drop off time, call (267) 939-0365.
Gallagher requests that if you drop off items without calling, please place the items in sealed trash bag on her porch, attaching an information card with your name and phone number.
To learn more about Stories for Seniors and Operation Secret Santa visit: http://www.storiesforseniors.wordpress.com