Santa comes early to a Valdosta nursing home - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Santa comes early to a Valdosta nursing home

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December 19, 2007

Valdosta - Senior Citizens are often forgotten throughout the holidays, but there is a program aimed to assure each one in Valdosta gets a gift for Christmas.

Home Stead Senior Care set up collection locations throughout the community and thanks to their donations, Wednesday they delivered gifts to over 300 senior citizens.

Like Willie Ratliff.  He's unwrapping an unexpected gift from someone he doesn't even know.

 "I got some old spice shaving cream and old spice cologne," he say.

It's part of the Be a Santa for a Senior program.

"They tell us one or two items the senior citizens may want for Christmas, we put it on an ornament that's hung on a tree at a store location," says Jack Hartley, owner of Homestead Senior Care in Valdosta.  "The public comes in, pulls the ornament, buys the gift and brings it back to that location and we wrap it."

Wednesday they delivered those gifts to the Heritage Home Nursing Home.  For some, it could be their only one.

Statistics show nearly 70% of seniors in a nursing home are without a family so if the community didn't donate, many would be without a gift this holiday season.

"It's pretty much they are invisible this time of year because we are so focused on our own families and children so they just kind of get lost a little bit and become invisible," Hartley says.

The community gave lotions, slippers, pajamas and other gifts that will be delivered to 300 seniors throughout the county.

While these gifts may seem like basic needs to some, they are so much more to others.

"They don't care what the gift is, just the fact that it is a gift," Hartley says.

"It feels wonderful I tell you! It feels wonderful! Makes you feel like somebody cares about you!" Ratliff adds.

Next year, the group hopes to deliver 500 gifts and spread the program to surrounding counties so no senior citizen in the area goes through the holidays without a present.

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