Everyone deserves to have a happy holiday season. But, all too often, elderly community members are forgotten during this time of year.
That’s why each year REAL Services puts together its Elves for Elders program. The program seeks to connect area seniors and disabled individuals — who often have no social network — with caring individuals in the community.
“We’re looking at the need of an individual — someone who has a limited family and a limited support system,” says Sandy Chambers, the manager of volunteer services at REAL Services. “We’re reaching out to our clients that are in the greatest need with the most limited resources.”
People enjoy receiving a gift during the holidays, regardless of their age. The Elves for Elders program helps remind seniors that they’re not alone or forgotten during a time of year when it’s needed most.
“It’s very important to connect with these folks because a lot of those who we serve are homebound or have very limited contact — maybe their family has moved away or their friends have passed away,” Chambers says. “The Elves for Elders program is a way to let them know that they’re not at all forgotten, that we think of them and want to bring them joy.”
More importantly than just giving a gift, REAL Services personalizes the items that are given to participants in the program. While items like linens, clothing, toiletries, snacks, calendars, and crossword puzzles may be on the list, Chambers says the personal touch makes all the difference.
“We don’t want to know if our clients want candy, we want to know what kind of candy they like. If you want a new set of bed sheets: ‘Do you like cats? Do you prefer yellow?’” Chambers says. “We want them to know that there was a personal interaction going on, that there was thought put into that gift for them. We really want to touch their hearts and give them a personalized gift at the holiday time to bring them the joy that anyone would like to experience.”
This year, REAL Services is hoping to reach 1,000 lonely seniors and disabled individuals across Elkhart, La Porte, Kosciusko, Marshall, and St. Joseph counties who have no one in their support system to brighten their holidays. REAL Services sends a wish list questionnaire to their clients to find out what they’d like to receive as gifts. Then, clients are matched with elves in the area who volunteer to purchase gifts.
“The Elves for Elders program is important for those who don’t have a support system — with it being the holiday season and the season for giving,” Chambers says. “Sometimes it’s not even the gift that they received, but the fact that someone took the time to think of them.”
There are several ways to participate if you want to be a holiday elf this year.
- Go shopping and purchase physical gifts for seniors and REAL Services will match you with a recipient.
- Deliver the gift(s) you purchase to recipients.
- Donate money to REAL Services via their website and let the organization shop for you.
- Pick up the gifts REAL Services purchase and deliver them to recipients.
- Purchase a gift card (in any amount that’s $50 or less) and REAL Services will give it to a senior in need.
Gifts and gift cards should be delivered to REAL Services by Nov. 18, 2022. This helps to ensure that there is ample time to purchase needed items, match gift cards to recipients, and wrap gifts for distribution to seniors by the first week of December 2022.
Anyone interested in participating in Elves for Elders can fill out a form online, or may contact Chambers by calling 574-284-7138 or by emailing her at email@example.com.