Senior trees make sure no one is alone at Christmas time

Seniors who may have outlived their loved ones are at-risk for increased loneliness and depression during the holidays.

Johnson County Senior Services wants to give those seniors a boost with a little bit of Christmas cheer through its Seniors Still Believe campaign.

The annual giving campaign seeks to give seniors who are alone during the holidays something to smile about by connecting them with folks who want to give them a few special gifts.

To accomplish this, Senior Services put the names of local seniors in need and short wish lists on holiday-shaped pieces of paper at several locations around the county, said Kimberly Smith, executive director.

Those who want to help can pick a name from Christmas trees set up at participating locations. Hosts this year include each of the Kroger stores in Johnson County, Carpenter Realty in Greenwood, Main Street Hospice in Franklin and Whiteland Town Hall.

The tree is up already at the Franklin Kroger, and the remaining trees will go up in the coming days, Smith said.

The gifts seniors are asking for are not extravagant, but rather little things we often take for granted, such as warm socks, blankets or snacks. Though inexpensive, the gifts could make a difference for seniors who are feeling down during the holidays, she said.

“It is such a humbling experience. When it is delivered, it is so heartwarming,” Smith said. “To them, it is so much bigger than a blanket or some socks.”

The gifts let local seniors know they matter to someone, and are a big boost to their mental health. Smith knows the gesture was a life-saver for one senior who was on the verge of giving up, she said.

“They just need to believe they matter,” Smith said. “They need to know they’re in our hearts and they matter.”

Last year, the program connected 1,654 seniors in need with gifts during the holiday season. This year, the program is expected to give out that many gifts or more, as the pandemic has been especially challenging for seniors, she said.

Senior Services is still taking names for this year’s donation cycle. Anyone who knows a senior who has no family or will be alone during the holidays can nominate that person by emailing [email protected] or calling 317-560-1707.

Seniors can also nominate themselves, she said. The only information that will be gathered is first name, last initial, veteran status and a list of three items they want for Christmas.

Gifts are due on Dec. 13, and can either be taken to the location where the tag was picked up, or to Senior Services, 36 Tracy Road, in Whiteland.