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Program provides presents to area seniors
Several volunteers have helped in effort
Lynne Patterson cuts wrapping paper to fit a package Thursday afternoon at Dogwood Forest assisted living home in Gainesville. She joined Home Instead Senior Care employees and other volunteers wrapping presents collected for area seniors as part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program.

Amy Green neatly folded wrapping paper around a knitted blanket on Thursday.

She and many others were preparing donated presents at Dogwood Forest assisted living home to give to local home-bound seniors.

"This is wonderful," Green said. "It's a good way to give back to the elderly, especially at hard times like this."

Though children are often at the forefront of people's minds during the Christmas season, the Be a Santa to a Senior program was created to help make the holidays a little merrier for seniors.

It's run by Home Instead Senior Care, and seniors are selected through Legacy Link and asked to make a Christmas wish list.

"They ask for things like VHS, books on tape. One man, he's blind, he asked for a telephone for the blind," said Melinda Carnes, general manager of Home Instead Senior Care. "They ask for house coats, personal care items, so it's really things that we take for granted."

Those lists are printed on ornaments and hung from trees at three area Chick-fil-A restaurants, and people can then select an ornament from the tree and provide a gift to that senior.

Lynne Patterson, a registered nurse and client care manager for Home Instead, said she was impressed by the outpouring of support from the community.

"That's been the neat thing, because we get people in the community who see the ornaments on the trees who call us and say ‘I don't want to take just one ornament. I've got a group that wants to take 15,'" Patterson said.

Many of the volunteers have been school-aged children.

Several students from area schools, day cares and home schools have donated their time to create handmade cards and help to wrap the nearly 600 gifts, Patterson said.

She added that many of the children didn't realize there are some grandparents who don't get Christmas gifts.

"Then they see the types of items people are asking for, canned goods, toiletries — it's really eye opening for them," Patterson said.

The is the fourth year Home Instead has taken on the task of finding, wrapping and giving presents to seniors.

This year the local branch of the nationwide program has grown to include between 300 and 400 North Georgia seniors.

"These gifts are going as far south as Athens and as far north as the Tennessee line," Carnes said.

The program is expected to include even more seniors next year. Several schools have expressed interest in helping with the program in the future.

"I imagine that there is going to come a point where we could potentially make sure every senior in need, certainly in Hall County, gets a gift," Patterson said.

"That would be, ultimately, the thing we'd want to do — make sure everybody got something for Christmas whether they have family or not."

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