Sometimes the only tangible gift they’re able to give is a personally decorated sugar cookie or a postcard to a loved one. They borrow postage.
Ash Uss recalled one man who came to her at André House last Christmas season and noticed some blank greeting cards. When he learned they were free, he enlisted her help filling it out.
“People asking me how to spell things so they can write to their mom back in the Midwest: ‘I’m not in housing yet, but I’m doing okay.’ Things like that are really powerful,” Uss said.
Even if guests can’t physically give much, spiritually, they gift several Catholic apostolates with their presence and someone to serve in an extra special way at Christmastime. The staff and volunteers, in turn, are privileged to support them.
If visiting a family member, friend or neighbor at Christmastime, the Foundation for Senior Living shared these tips to also check on their well-being for signs of needing help:
*Garage — Any signs of fender benders on the cars?
*Kitchen — Is the refrigerator full of fresh food or a lot take-out containers with old food?
*Bedroom — Is it clean or messy?
*Bathroom — Are there a lot of medications or new medications you didn’t know about?
*Physical — Have they lost or gained weight? Are they moody? Sad? Lonely?
*Mail — Is it piling up? Have bills been paid?
*Are they wearing appropriate clothing for the season?
*Do they enjoy foods and activities as they always have or are their preferences changing?
FSL.org or (602) 285-1800
At the Foundation for Senior Living, it’s staff, the board of directors and three sets of corporate donors who take care of Christmas shopping and wrapping for clients. They expect to provide for 191 clients this year who are part of FSL’s transitional care program, behavioral health group homes, adult day health services, home and community-based services and home repair. FSL provides these services to people of any age in need of preserving health, mobility/independence and dignity.
“They realize that some seniors get forgotten about and they want to make a difference, if only once a year,” said Tom Egan, president and CEO of FSL.
An ornament from an angel tree with two wish list items on each one becomes their shopping list. Many return with both items, often beautifully wrapped and put under the tree. Shoes, slippers, socks, blankets, anything to keep warm are common gifts. Other clients dream big by asking for: a cowboy hat, baseball hat, large print puzzle books or pet food.
“We have one client that only asks for a bed sheet for their hospital bed,” Egan said. That one angel always comes through to find such an unusual size sheet.
There’s no formal wish list for the six men who can live at André House’s transitional home. The core team hints around in order to surprise the men Christmas Day. It’s generally new items, a luxury for those in shelters, with a value up to $50.
“It’s remarkable to see what that does to someone’s spirit,” Uss said.
One man got a winter coat so he could more comfortably await the early bus. Another got Nikes so he could endure a long walk to work. A third received a nice sweater for his corporate job. Countless dining room guests also get new blankets that pour in from donation drives this time of year.
Christmas Day at André House also involves Mass in the house’s yard, which is open to the public, followed by a potluck. Alumni often come; sometime it’s the only place they can find community.
See pages 2-4 of the holiday newsletter for more about Christmas
“Big Steve” lived at André House in 2013 after being at a previous shelter. Even non holidays felt special. When he needed toiletries, Big Steve added it to a list on the refrigerator and the item would appear within a day or two.
“That was like Christmas there to be able to do that and have your own bed,” he said. André House is where true healing and progress emerged, he said.
Staff and volunteers make Christmas at Ozanam Manor, St. Vincent de Paul’s transitional shelter for up to 60 residents, memorable too. It’s a communal effort among St. Daniel the Prophet angel tree donors, St. Vincent de Paul’s WISH group — Women In Service and Hope — who wrap other donated gifts, and the Phoenix Order of Malta chapter, who host the Christmas party.
“Having outside contact with people is huge for people who are shut away,” said Jeanne O’Brien, one of eight Order of Malta members expected to host this year’s party. It’s Dec. 20.
The typical party agenda includes a catered lunch, gifts, raffles for larger gifts and cookie decorating. A connection through Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Sun City West is bringing a Theater West performance for the first time and a singing priest.
“I don’t want anybody to be lonely. Christmas can be a lonely time for a lot of people. I want them to feel warm, a part of the community and loved at Christmastime,” said Julia Matthies, director.
A few residents might travel locally to be with extended family Christmas Day and the option to bring personally decorated sugar cookies from the party with them as a gift.