It was a simple Christmas wish list.
When Kristen Smith Wilson picked two names off a Christmas tree at Montrose Ford in Copley Township, both men asked for the same thing: a box of vanilla wafers and a bottle of Arizona Tea.
“Isn’t it cute?” she said of the simple request.
Wilson, 37, of Wadsworth, a chemical engineer at Goodyear, has been purchasing gifts for senior citizens she doesn’t know since losing two grandparents several years ago. Ed Helsel, 90, and his wife, Ruth Helsel, 88, died a year apart.
“When they passed we wanted to do something nice for another senior,” she said.
So Wilson got the vanilla wafers and tea for those seniors and bought goodies for other elderly shut-ins, as well.
While much attention at Christmas time is obviously focused on children in need, there are often seniors who not only have no visitors but who also receive no gifts.
The program Wilson worked with, Be a Santa to a Senior, was started in 2004 by Home Instead Senior Care, which provides nonmedical home care for seniors. Wilson worked with Home Instead Senior Care of Summit and Medina counties, which also serves northern Wayne County. The local business, located at One Park Center, Suite 115, Wadsworth, is owned by Pam Myers.
The organization gets names from a dozen area nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities and organizations that work with seniors.
Their goal is to find seniors who have no family and no visitors.
Last year, more than 500 seniors received gifts through the program.
Paper ornaments with the first name of a senior and the person’s wish list are displayed on Christmas trees at various locations in Summit and Medina counties.
“Usually they want just one thing,” said Wilson.
One woman asked for a compact disc player and Wilson got a player and some music, remembering how much her grandfather loved to listen to talk radio.
“One lady wanted blue tennis shoes,” she said.
She takes her 5-year-old daughter, Tori, with her to buy the gifts and to drop them off in hopes of teaching her about the spirit of Christmas.
“We are trying to teach her early to give to others,” she said.
Elisa Barton, a spokeswoman for Home Instead Senior Care in Wadsworth, said often requests are for basic needs, like for winter coats.
“Someone got a nice long black wool coat and she wore it inside and walked around the nurses’ station wearing it because she was so happy she had this nice coat,” she said.
The deadline for dropping off gifts for seniors is Thursday for the Summit, Medina and Wayne program.
Trees with ornament/Christmas wish lists are located at the following Walgreens stores: 805 North Court, Medina; 755 Howe Ave., Cuyahoga Falls; 2645 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls; 302 Canton Road, Akron; and 3009 W. Market St., Fairlawn.
Other locations where there are trees that have wish lists include Fraternal Order of Eagles, 2244 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls; Summit Toyota, 1501 Vernon Odom Blvd., Akron; Serpentini Chevrolet, 140 West Ave., Tallmadge; Montrose Ford, 3960 Medina Road, Copley Twp.; Cool Beans, 103 W. Liberty St., Medina; and Wadsworth Center for Older Adults, 138 High St., Wadsworth.
The Be A Santa To A Senior program is also offered by the Stark County franchises of Home Instead Senior Care in North Canton at 330-305-9500 and at the Aurora office in Portage County at 330-995-1522. Gifts can be donated through the end of next week at the Stark and Portage locations.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.