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‘Santa for seniors’ meets many needs

All Syble and Thomas Grissett wanted for Christmas was a new bathroom, and thanks to the “Santa for Seniors” program, they got it.

“Santa for Seniors” is a grass-roots volunteer effort to share the Christmas spirit with seniors who are in need of basic necessities and home repairs and seniors who are clients of Southern Alabama Regional Council on Aging (SARCOA) or one of its senior centers in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties.

Through frequent contact, SARCOA’s case managers know these clients well and have selected individuals with needs that are not likely to be otherwise met.

“Common items requested are not usually traditional Christmas gifts, but rather items such as personal care items, bed pads, bug spray, Ensure, blankets and food,” said Jessica Franklin, SARCOA’s community education coordinator.

“Last year, cash donations provided relief to seniors who were behind on doctors’ bills, pharmacy, gas and electric bills, and even house payments, as well as assisting with hearing aid purchases and wigs and CT screenings for cancer victims,” she said. “Most of these seniors’ limited budgets do not allow for home repairs or pest control. Through the ‘Santa for Seniors’ project, monetary donations fund these essential home repairs and maintenance.”

For the Grissetts, it was the chance to find someone to remodel a bedroom in their Andalusia home into a handicapped-accessible bathroom, because of the couple’s health issues. Their case manager, Joyce Phillips, referred them to the program.

“My wife and I both have had open heart surgery and strokes,” Thomas Grissett said. “We really needed that bathroom.”

Relatives donated a walk-in shower, sink, countertop and cabinet for the project. Labor is being donated by contractor Chuck Ledford of Ledford Electrical and Construction and his employees, who donate four days a month to the “Santa for Seniors” program. Thursday, he was renovating the Grissetts’ bathroom.

“Sometimes our senior population gets overlooked,” Ledford said. “These people have looked out for us as we grew up. Now, it’s time for us to look out for them.”

Franklin said during the past three years, the program has grown in terms of both the number of seniors assisted and the volume of donations.

“Last year, gifts and support came from all parts of the Wiregrass community,” she said. “Combining gifts from several hundred donors, a total of 374 Wiregrass seniors had their needs met. This year, approximately 500 clients have been chosen to receive Christmas gifts and home repairs, but we need the community’s help to make that happen.

“To sponsor a senior, visit our Web site at sarcoa.org to see a complete list of needs,” she said. “We just ask that you contact us so we can update our list.”

Sponsors can contact SARCOA in two ways: by telephone at 1-800-239-3507 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or by e-mail at janice.berry@adss.alabama.gov. Please include contact info and the client or clients you wish to sponsor, she said.

Contributions should be placed in a bag or box and labeled with the client’s number. Gifts may be wrapped in gift paper, but do not have to be.

Local drop-off points include the Covington County Commission administration office on Hillcrest Drive or Florala City Hall.