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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Tanner Newton SENIOR TREE: From left are Christina Godfrey, Jennifer Bassett and Kandy Gould of Home Instead with one of the Be a Santa to a Senior program's trees at Walgreens. The tree is covered in ornaments bearing the names and wish lists of local seniors who do not have families nearby to be with during the holidays.

For many people, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and opening presents. Unfortunately, this is not the case for a large number of seniors. Be a Santa to a Senior is working to change that.

Be a Santa to a Senior, which is in its 10th year, is a program that allows people to donate gifts to a specific elder member of the community.

Similar to The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program, Be a Santa to a Senior selects seniors who do not have any family living nearby. These seniors give ideas of little gifts that they would like to receive, and, like Angel Tree, the seniors are put on an ornament a tree. People then pick an ornament off a tree and shop for them.

This year, there are around 600 seniors in the program. So far, the program has received around 200 gifts.

The program is being sponsored by Home Instead, an organization that provides seniors with the help they need in order to stay living in their own homes instead of in a nursing home. Jennifer Bassett, the owner of Home Instead, said that the purpose of Be a Santa to a Senior is to show these seniors that people do care about them.

While there is no spending limit on the gifts, Bassett said that the presents do not need to be expensive. "It's not about volume, it's a little thing to make them be recognized," Bassett said.

Most of the gifts that people donate are things like T-shirts and blankets. "They love warm fuzzy blankets," Bassett said.

Gifts can get more personal, though. Kandy Gould, also with Home Instead, said that one person picked a senior who requested "baseball stuff." They later contacted the program to ask if they could find out the senior's favorite team, so they were able to give presents geared around the team.

The gifts that are donated are then hand-delivered to the seniors, ensuring that the seniors get to interact with people. The gifts can be wrapped. Presents that aren't wrapped will be wrapped by volunteers.

This year there are eight Be a Santa to a Senior Trees. Four of them are in Hot Springs. These are at CVS Pharmacy, 2620 Central Ave., Walgreens, 1401 Albert Pike Road, Walmart, 4019 Central Ave., and Walmart, 1601 Albert Pike Road. There is also one tree in Hot Springs Village at Walmart, 3604 Highway 7 north. The program is also in Benton, with trees at Finley Pharmacy, 1016 W. South St., Smith Caldwell Pharmacy, 414 N. Main St., and Westside Pharmacy, 620 W. South St.

Presents can be left at each of these locations with the ornament attached to them.

The last day that presents will be picked up will be Dec. 20. The gifts will be delivered to seniors the following day.

Local on 12/06/2018

Print Headline: Be a Santa to a Senior program spreads holiday cheer

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