Gift drive for the young at heart
by James Howell
Appalachian Senior Programs will hold its 10th annual gift project for senior citizens called “Project Star,” which is a program that offers gifts to anonymous seniors in need.
“Most of the seniors served by this project are lonely, isolated, don’t really have any family and wouldn’t get any gifts otherwise,” said Tammy Taylor, Project Star’s coordinator.
Groups that work with the elderly in the county submitted a list of names of seniors in need, along with a list of gift ideas for each person. Those groups include the Department of Social Services, Ashe Really Cares, Ashe Outreach Ministries, Spruce Hill Apartments, Mountain Living and Mountain Village.
Once the names were submitted to Appalachian Senior Programs, each name was assigned a number so the senior can remain anonymous. Each number, along with an outline of gift ideas, has been printed on a cut-out paper star.
Since the list of seniors has been finalized, the cut-out stars were placed in different locations throughout town. As of Thursday, 184 stars had been printed and were on display Monday at Wendy’s, Food Lion, Ingles and Sweet & Savory. Taylor said the project averages about 200 stars per year.
“For many of these seniors, these gifts are the only presents they will receive over Christmas,” said Taylor.
According to Taylor, most of these gifts are simple, inexpensive items, like blankets, clothing and food.
Debbie Wellborn, who also works for Appalachian Senior Programs, said “most of the gifts are simple things that many people take for granted.”
She said last year a 95-year-old woman wanted a few modest gifts, which included Pringles potato chips, peppermint candy and a baby doll.
In the last nine years of Project Star, every senior wishing to get a gift managed to receive at least one. “No one has been left out so far,” said Wellborn.
Anyone wanting to donate gifts to a senior in need can pick a star and purchase the items. Afterwards, the gifts will need to be returned to the Appalachian Senior Programs’ office so they can be distributed to the seniors over the holidays.
According to Wellborn, the concept for Project Star was created when workers from Appalachian Senior Programs recognized children draw most of the attention during Christmas, but there were no local programs that attempted to help the elderly.
Since Project Star’s first gift drive nine years ago, it has attracted the attention of local businesses that wish to contribute to the cause.
Mike Powers has donated trees to Project Star for the past nine years, courtesy of Mountain Memories Tree Farm, and plans to do so again. Employees from Gates donate between 25-30 food boxes every year to Project Star, and Skyline/Skybest’s employees also help by getting gifts for 20-25 stars every year for the past 9 years.
“It’s the generosity of the kind people of Ashe County that makes this project possible each year,” said Taylor.
Jamie Richardson, from the Department of Social Services, said “I’ve been here for seven years and for most of the seniors, these are the only gifts they receive. They really look forward to getting these gifts for Christmas.”
“Ashe County is very lucky to have a Christmas program for the elderly, most places don’t have something like this,” said Richardson.
Appalachian Senior Programs also helps seniors with fuel assistance, especially with winter quickly approaching.
“Donations are greatly appreciated as the money will be used for fuel assistance and for stars that were not collected and didn’t receive any gifts,” said Taylor.
Appalachian Senior Programs is funded by a federal grant and sponsored by Appalachian State University.
Anyone interested in participating in the gift drive will need to deliver gift items to the Appalachian Senior Programs’ office before Thursday, Dec. 6, next to Jefferson Drug Store. Only newly-purchased items will be accepted.
For more information, call Tammy Taylor at 336-846-4898.
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