Every year around the holidays, people volunteer their time for various organizations to try to raise money for those in need. Whether you stand out on the corner ringing a bell or go door-to-door, the end game is the same … helping others through the holiday season.
Locally, one person is going beyond the norm to offer assistance and help senior citizens this holiday season.
Arica Collins, co-owner and pharmacist at Dyer Drug Co., has a large Christmas tree displayed in the lobby of the drug store with special ornaments on it and it is called “Secret Santa for Seniors.”
Each ornament represents a senior citizen in the county who has special needs during the holiday season.
Collins said there are plenty of charities out there that deal with children and while all of those are great, she felt the need to try and take care of the elderly who may not have family or many loved ones in their lives during the holidays.
“I just realized there are a lot of senior citizens in our community who are without loved ones and people to spend the holidays with. I came up with the idea in this area because I think its something different,” Collins said. “I feel like we can bring a little joy in their lives for Christmas. I think the senior citizens are overlooked in our community and I know that first hand with our day-to-day operations.”
Collins said her business goes beyond just delivering prescriptions.
“We call and check on them and deliver food items if they need it,” Collins said. “It just kind of made me think that this is a time when people get together with family and friends and it’s a really joyous time, but for some seniors in this community, they don’t have anyone.”
Secret Santa for Seniors is kept confidential. If people want to help a senior citizen, they can pick up an ornament at Dyer Drug store and shop for the items that are listed on the ornament. Each ornament has a number that corresponds with a senior citizen. Once those items are collected, they are wrapped and will be delivered a couple days before Christmas. Items need to be unwrapped and returned to Dyer Drug by December 15, 2012.
“We actually try to find out what they might like for Christmas instead of just giving them a generic gift” Collins said. “There are seniors out there who are very self-sufficient, but don’t really have anybody to buy them anything for Christmas. We wanted to try and take it a step beyond and actually find out what their likes are and what their personal needs are. We just want to try and make it a little more special for them this year.”
The items on each senior’s list are mostly things they might need. Household items, Collins said, was the biggest request andnonperishable food items.
“Most of the time they are not really specific,” Collins said. “Overwhelmingly, people are just wanting food. I think that also brings awareness, potentially, to another situation that a lot of people overlook this time of year which is we are out trying to buy the newest, biggest, greatest gift for our kids and if you look at people living on fixed incomes, they don’t want a lot … they just want food items.”
Even though Collins has several seniors on her list for Secret Santa, she said she is also taking names of people who might be in need during this holiday season.
“There are a lot of neat items, including nonperishable food items, that people can buy for these seniors,” Collins said. “Right now we have about 30 seniors on the tree. There are plenty of ways for the community to get involved if they would like to help.”
Adopting a senior citizen is easy according to Collins. All people have to do is get items on a list and bring those items to Dyer Drug store.
“People really don’t need to do anything ahead of time. They just need to stop by, pick up an ornament, shop and bring the items back,” Collins said. “Between December 15 and December 22, our staff, along with some other area volunteers, are going to get together and wrap those items and have them delivered by December 22. That’s the goal.”
Collins said she is getting a lot of support and help from the home health agencies in town.
“They have been good about collaborating with us and giving us some ideas of people who may be in need,” Collins said. “If anyone knows of someone who may be in need, they can come into the store. We are trying to get the ornaments out and get the items back in. We are running low on time, so we are hoping people will come in soon … the sooner the better. It’s been more popular than I thought it would be. There are a lot of people in the community who have a need and we are also looking for community volunteers who will step up and help make Christmas better for them. We are just trying to do a good thing.”