While most holiday giving trees provide the youngest of Santa's fans with goodies like baby dolls, art supplies and toy trucks, a trio of local plastic evergreens this year are focused on lonely seniors in the region.
On Wednesday, a pair of Christmas trees at Medford Fred Meyer stores held holiday wishes for things like a warm pair of socks, a battery-operated doorbell and movie snacks.
Home Instead Senior Care, with offices in Medford and Grants Pass, is sponsoring holiday gift trees to provide shut-ins and residents of assisted living facilities with gifts and a holiday visit.
Cathyann Wright, marketing director for Home Instead Senior Care in Medford, said while her agency's focus is to help seniors "age in place," the seniors being provided gifts through the giving tree project are community members with few friends and family remaining.
"We're talking about people who have lived in skilled nursing facilities for over 20 years. They've outlived their family and friends and they really don't have many loved ones left," she said. She said local care facilities and social service agencies had referred the seniors whose names are listed on the trees.
"The big thing about this program is that it's not a charity, but it's more of a gesture and a chance for these seniors to make a connection. These people don't ask for expensive items. Most of our tags say something like a robe or socks or a shirt. It's more about knowing that someone thought about them."
The gifts will be distributed through care facilities and to some "meals on wheels" recipients via Food & Friends, Wright said, adding that volunteers gain as much as the gift recipients.
"A lot of these seniors, when we ask what they'd like for Christmas, will say, 'Oh, I don't really need much,' " Wright said.
"But we make sure that they know that it's just as meaningful to the volunteers to get to spend time and share a memory with someone. These are seniors who have been the ones in charge of Christmas and always done Christmas for their families and now they really don't have anyone to spend it with."
Wright said shoppers for all three area Fred Meyer stores, along with the Club Northwest fitness center in Grants Pass, are invited to take a tag from the holiday trees during business hours and return the tag with a purchased gift through Monday, Dec. 16.
If all the tags are taken off trees, Wright said, her agency hoped to reach out to some 400 or more seniors.
According to the program website, "Be a Santa to a Senior," began nationally in 2006 and has since provided 1.2 million gifts to more than 700,000 older Americans.
For information about donating funds to help purchase needed gifts, or for volunteer info or details on a pending "tailgate party" for volunteers and gift recipients, call Wright at 541-200-9179.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at email@example.com.