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‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ spreads holiday cheer

Posted at 4:17 PM, Dec 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-05 19:03:46-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The holidays are a time for giving, especially to those in need.

Around Christmas, children and their families are usually the focus, but here is another community in need that is often overlooked.

Seniors who live alone, or who live in poverty, might not be front of mind, but there’s an effort underway across the country – and right here in west Michigan - to make sure seniors are not forgotten.

Dennis Doyle is 63-years-old.

He was born and raised in Grand Rapids, making a living as a cab and delivery driver for 28 years.

Health issues sidelined him about 10 years ago.

“I’ve had three heart attacks,” he said. “I’m 63. My first one was at 55. That was ’06. In ’12, they discovered cancer in my throat. It was a lymph node called a squamous cell carcinoma.”

But for a brother, Pat, who lives across the hall at Ransom Tower, Dennis lives alone.

“It’s the first time I’ve been really grounded in 10 years, so I’m real happy about the situation.”

Dennis is among hundreds of seniors who are looking for a little holiday cheer, but he and many others need your help.

“I’m a sympathetic type of person and I want to have a little bit of Christmas around,” Doyle explained.

Be a Santa to a Senior’ is an effort organized by Home Instead Senior Care Partners.

Nationwide, over the last six years, the company has been joined by non-profits, area retailers and members of the community, purchasing and collecting gifts for seniors in need.

“We get a list of seniors who may otherwise be forgotten at the holidays or be alone,” explained Ellen Mikolay, a community service representative with Home Instead Senior Care. “We put their name and their needs on these tags, on these trees.”

For the last six years, ‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ has attracted some 60,000 volunteers, providing more than 1.2 million gifts to about 700,000 seniors.

“All you need to do is come take a tag off a tree and put your gift under the tree and the seniors have a visitor at the holidays,” said Mikolay.

Program organizers are hoping to help more than 400 seniors, like Dennis, this holiday season.

“You know, when you get old, Christmas isn’t like it used to be,” Doyle said. “All it does is bring up memories… like I say, I’ve always liked Christmas.

The deadline for collecting and delivering the gifts is Dec. 16.

Below is a list of ornament/donation sites:

  • Walmart 4542 Kenowa Ave SW Grandville, MI 49418
  • Kentwood Senior Center 355 48th St. SE Kentwood, MI 49548
  • SarahCare Adult Day Care 2211 East Beltline Grand Rapids, MI 29519
  • SarahCare Adult Day Care 2024 Health Drive Wyoming, MI 49519
  • Vista Springs Assisted Living 2708 Meyer SW Wyoming, MI 49516
  • Vista Springs Northview 3740 Vista Springs Ave NE Grand Rapids, 49525
  • Peppermill Grill 8 South Squires Street Square Rockford, MI 49534
  • Cook Funeral Home 4235 Prairie St. SW Grandville, MI 49418
  • David Carrier Law 5242 Plainfield Ave NE Grand Rapids, MI 49525

SarahCare, an adult day care center on East Beltline, serves as more than a donation site.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have Emmons Lake Elementary come and join us for a wrapping party every year for the last four or five years,” explained SarahCare owner and executive director Kendra Schumaker. “It’s just been great. They’re side-by-side with our older participants, wrapping the gifts and making a card.”