REAL Services is dedicated to helping elderly and low-income people become and stay independent for life. If you or someone you love needs help during the COVID-19 pandemic, call REAL Services at 574-233-8205.
The holiday season is just around the corner.
This is typically a joyful time of year for most of us but for many families throughout Michiana, December will instead bring uncertainty.
When it comes to the elderly population, this may be especially true, as they are limited to small social gatherings and poorer-than-usual economic outlooks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Charitable organizations have also been forced to adapt to these new restrictions in order to support such a vulnerable group.
This includes REAL Services, which is preparing for its annual Elves For Elders program. In most years, volunteer elves give elders practical gifts costing about $50 to seniors living Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall and St. Joseph counties.
“With the COVID-19 virus it’s really important to keep our clients safe,” said Lisa Bourdon, Manager of Volunteer Services at REAL Services. “With that being said, we’re changing to a touchless program this year. It doesn’t change the need — the seniors still have a great need for the services and to add cheer to their holiday.
“Instead, it’s letting them know that somebody’s still thinking about them, and they’re getting some of those things that are necessities to them” while reducing their potential exposure to the virus.
Changes To This Year’s Elves For Elders
This year, REAL Services is asking the community to donate $50 gift cards for the Elves for Elders program, instead of volunteers purchasing gifts. Gift cards can be mailed to REAL Services at 1151 S. Michigan Street, South Bend, IN 46601. This way, Bourdon can help limit the amount of personal contact the elders receive and keep them safe and healthy.
We know… it’s less fun Christmas shopping for gift cards, but the elder who receives the gift cards can then use them to purchase valuable items, such as a new robe, slippers, blankets or a number of other practical yet necessary gifts.
REAL Services asks that the gifts be limited to select stores, which includes Martin’s, Meijer, Target, Kroger, Walmart and Amazon.
“When somebody calls in to adopt a senior, it’ll be personalized,” said Allen Holt, Manager of Mission Advancement at REAL Services. “Lisa will actually connect the community person with a senior that lives somewhere in their area. Let’s say you’re someone calling in from Kosciusko County, she would match that person up with one of our seniors in Kosciusko. They can even select if they want to if they want to shop for a male or a female.
“Then they’ll get their name, their age, and we’re going to have a description of each senior, which includes what they would love to buy with their gift card.”
How To Become An Elf
REAL Services is looking to recruit as many volunteers as possible for the 2020 Elves For Elders Program, with adoptions beginning at the end of October and the goal of having every elder assigned by Thanksgiving.
If you’d like to contribute to the Elves For Elders program this holiday season but do not want to purchase a gift card, you can always give to REAL Services directly.
“We’re also going to have the option that if people don’t want to do the gift cards, they can donate financially to us,” Bourdon said. “We can then purchase that gift card for a senior. We’ll have a mobile app that people can access. It will be a user-friendly experience.”
Gift cards are due on Dec. 11.
All of the elders selected for the program are chosen by REAL Services staff members, who identify clients who are the most in need and, for the most part, homebound.
Want to get involved with Elves For Elders? Contact Lisa Bourdon at 574-284-7138 or email her at Lisa2@REALServices.org.