Be a Santa to a Senior

About 7,000 senior citizens in the Houston area are receiving gifts this week through an outreach program called "Be a Santa to a Senior." Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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Just behind the Imperial Sugar Mill in Sugar Land, there's an old neighborhood where tiny houses line the quiet streets. Many of the residents here are elderly and live on a fixed income. And many have lived here their whole lives. Miss Maria lives alone in one of these houses and relies on Meals on Wheels for a hot meal each day. This week, she's getting more than just food.

"Everybody's treating me very good, all my nurses and everybody. My friends, they all treat me, they all come and see me. This is a big surprise, that's why I'm...[crying]."

Miss Maria is one of 800 seniors who get meals and social services every day in Ft. Bend County. But she wasn't expecting the gifts, which come from the Home Instead Senior Care offices. SondraWiedenfeld says they're giving away 10,000 gifts to seniors who otherwise might have a quiet and lonely Christmas.

"There's remembrances of when the house was full of hustle and bustle with the children there and the giftwrap and the tinsel and everything. And sometimes our seniors homes get a little quieter because they don't have the energy or they don't have the resources to participate in the holidays the way they once did, which doesn't mean that they don't want to. They want to be remembered at Christmas. And one of our seniors so eloquently put it that old kids like Christmas too."

Manuela Arroyos is the director of the Ft. Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels program.

"Since we're already coming to the home everyday, we know the need. This is a wish list and as you could tell from the route, the gifts are not extravagant gifts. They're gifts that the seniors really need -- they need towels, they need blankets, they need things that are going to make them comfortable -- because they are isolated and they're not able to go to the store and purchase some of the things that you and I can purchase any day of the week."

The gifts were donated by a number of retailers and businesses along with hundreds of individual donations. And as always, hundreds more senior citizens are on waiting lists for Meals on Wheels services. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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