Christmas came early for about 60 senior citizens needing a boost.
Fifty-six Whidbey Island residents donated gifts and care packages to Island Senior Resources’ Adopt-a-Senior program. The presents were wrapped and delivered to the homes of 56 senior citizens on Thursday and Friday.
The program, in its fourth year, helps ensure the aging, fixed-income community is not forgotten during the holidays. They’re provided gifts they might not receive otherwise.
The recipients, who are typically 60 years or older and on fixed incomes, are identified by case managers and home care service providers.
There are other recipients who are younger but are at a disadvantage due to medical problems or other issues.
They remain anonymous to their donors and vice versa; donors are provided with a dossier of their needs so they can purchase their gifts accordingly.
“It’s just pairing up people who want to help out others in the community,” said Skye Dunn, communications manager for Island Senior Resources.
The presents included gift cards, clothes, homemade cookies, toiletries and other amenities, which Dunn said are things people typically take for granted, but are sometimes cost-prohibitive for people struggling financially.
The program was introduced by Chasity Smith, director of aging and disabilities resources/family caregiver support, after she saw the positive impacts that similar programs were having across the nation.
The number of deliveries has stayed about the same over the past three years. Island Senior Resources has operated it by themselves in the past, but Dunn said a volunteer is helping with coordination for the first time in the program’s history.
There are many rural areas on Whidbey Island that keep senior citizens secluded, Dunn said. Sometimes the only person they see during an average week is their Meals on Wheels driver.
Dunn said he’s made deliveries to seniors in the past and personally witnessed their reaction to know the community hasn’t forgotten about them and that they are being looked after.
“It just reminds us that there are a lot of seniors that are living alone on this island,” Dunn said.
That’s where the donors come in.
People from all across the island participate. Clinton residents Jill Yomnick and her partner Jim West are among them. Yomnick said that while there are many programs and charities that address food shortages for children and financially-struggling families, there are not a lot of advocates supporting senior citizens.
“The seniors don’t really have a lot of advocates besides the senior center,” Yomnick said.
“The reason why we participate is because they don’t have many resources and nonprofits working on their behalf. They’re more likely to be alone and live alone and on a fairly fixed income. I know there’s a lot of needs among seniors financially.”
Yomnick and West, in their third year with the program, helped a disabled senior by purchasing a gift certificate to Payless in Freeland, clothing and bedding.
Yomnick said she’s glad to be doing her part.
“I think it’s a wonderful program and I look forward to doing it again next year,” Yomnick said. “…It feels nice to give money and support somebody and remain anonymous.”
Dunn also said that a slew of employees from different departments at WhidbeyHealth contribute donations.