Lake Norman & Mooresville

You can 'Be a Santa to a Senior'

Creighton Gibson is very excited about this year's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program, organized by the Home Instead Senior Care franchise he owns with his wife, Tracey.

After the deaths of Creighton's parents, W.A. and Ann Gibson, Creighton and Tracy Gibson wanted to do something to help senior adults who need care at home.

They started their Home Instead Senior Care franchise in November 2002.

The Statesville-based business provides nonmedical services to elderly people in their homes.

In 2004, the Gibsons created their first "Be a Santa to a Senior" program for the Iredell and Alexander county areas as a memorial to Creighton's parents.

"My heart broke when I would visit my father during his last days in a local senior care center," Creighton Gibson said. "I walked the halls to get to my dad ... and saw so many lonely and alone seniors with no gift under their trees. ... It broke my heart."

How it works

One of the Gibsons' newest employees is Erin Dixon, whom they hired a few months ago to organize this year's "Be a Santa to a Senior" program.

"I enjoy this program," Dixon said. "It's a mission- and time-sensitive project."

The "Be a Santa" program will provide holiday cheer and gifts to senior adults who are least likely to receive a present during the holiday season, who may have little family to celebrate.

Here's how it works:

Seniors decide on four items they want for Christmas. Their name and the four items are written down on a paper ornament.

Trees or bins have been set up at Wal-Marts in Statesville, Mooresville and Taylorsville, at two Walgreens stores and at the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce and the United Federal Credit Union in Statesville.

Shoppers go to one of those locations, take a paper ornament from the tree, buy the named items and return the gifts to the tree.

Gifts for 1,600

Dollar General and Health Smart Pharmacy are helping Home Instead in a different way. They are hosting bins; ornaments will be on display for shopping, and the gifts will be put in a bin for pickup.

Volunteer "elves" will hand-deliver all the items named on the ornaments to seniors before Christmas.

Home Instead Senior Care will strive to see that, along with the four items a senior adult has listed, they will also get body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lip balm, lotion, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, toothpaste and other personal items.

There's also a way for churches and organizations to help: They're invited to make homemade Christmas cards with special messages for each senior adult and deliver those to Home Instead.

Dixon said, "Home Instead began 'Be a Santa to a Senior' in 2004 and gave away 547 gifts. ... This year, our goals are to have several gifts under the tree for (each of) 1,400 to 1,600 seniors."

Dixon's work does not end with the "Be a Santa to a Senior" tree and bin locations.

"After we pick up the gifts ... we have to get busy and wrap them. Wrapping parties begin," she said. "If you want to be involved in gift wrapping, call the local chambers (of commerce) or Home Instead Senior Care.... "

Dixon jumped to her feet. "I've got to run, and I have gifts to prepare," she said. "Time is ticking." She exited with a twirl and a skip and a last quick "Great to meet you!"