Secret Santa on a community-wide scale

Gift drive helps seniors in need this holiday season
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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Holiday decorations are springing up all over Placer County, and one collection of trees is more than just ornamental. This season, Home Instead Senior Care has teamed with nonprofit agencies and retailers to sponsor Be a Santa to a Senior, a program that collects, wraps and delivers gifts to senior citizens who might otherwise not receive presents this year. “Many older adults continue to struggle in a down economy, particularly those who live alone with no family nearby to provide resources,” said Buck Shaw, owner of Home Instead, which provides non-medical in-home care to seniors in Placer and Nevada counties. Be a Santa to a Senior works by inviting shoppers to pick an ornament off a tree at any of 10 locations now through Dec. 16. The ornaments have the first name only of a senior in need, and participants take the list on their holiday shopping trip, picking up gifts for seniors from a suggested list provided by Home Instead. They deliver the new, unwrapped gifts back to a tree location, and the tree sponsor wraps the gifts for delivery. Auburn is especially giving, said Mike Zuvella, owner of Courthouse Coffee in Old Town. “I think they had to come pick up gifts three, four or five times last year,” he said. Janice Gosalves of Home Instead said the Be a Santa gift drive, now in its seventh year here, sees a good turnout in both counties. “It’s really simple,” she said. “The gifts don’t have to be overly expensive, either. It’s usually just things that are needed.” Those items include blankets, slipper socks, gloves, scarves, nightlights, reading glasses and other necessities. Shoppers are also welcome to buy off the list too, as long as the gifts are new and unwrapped. Food should not be purchased. “Everybody just has a big heart and they seem really excited about it,” Gosalves said. Zuvella said his customers are more than willing to give, and he even gets his family in on the fun. They decorate a paper tree to display at Courthouse Coffee, where limited space makes a full-sized tree not a feasible option. “It’s something great for the local community,” Zuvella said. “A big portion of my customers are seniors. It was quite easy to have them bring in gifts. We just put out a couple to show under the tree, and they just kept bringing them.” The number of seniors in need continues to rise. Last year, Be a Santa delivered gifts to 1,800 seniors throughout Auburn, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties, and Gosalves said she expects to see even more this year. “We hope holiday shoppers will open their hearts to those seniors who have given so much to make our community a better place,” Shaw said. Learn more about the program at Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at ------------------------------------ Tree locations Auburn Ravine Terrace: 750 Auburn Ravine Road, Auburn Community 1st Bank: 2250 Douglas Blvd., Suite 190, Roseville Courthouse Coffee: 1425 Lincoln Way, Auburn McCaulou’s: 372 Elm Ave., Auburn Starbucks: 1565 Eureka Road, Roseville Ti Amo Salon & Spa: 215 Maple St., Auburn Walgreens: 3999 Foothills Blvd., Roseville; 2177 Sunset Blvd., Roseville; 12120 New Airport Road, Auburn; 880 Sutton Way, Grass Valley ------------------------------------ Needed items • Blankets or throws • Robes • Slipper socks with grips • Hats, scarves and gloves • Grooming or vanity items (hand sanitizer, creams, lotions) • Sweaters, jackets, sweats, warm-up suits • Large-print books, crossword puzzles • Jar openers, electric can openers • Magnetic clasps, cup warmers, magnifying glasses • Game books and cards • Stamps, stationery, page magnifiers, easy-touch pens • Reaching devices, shoehorns, cane holders • Readers, reading glasses • Nightlights • Magnified mirrors • Calendars