By LOIS KINDLE
The Greater SouthShore Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the 4th Annual Senior Giving Tree by collecting Christmas gifts for area seniors residing in local assisted living residences.
Started by the former South Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce and now adopted by the newly merged Greater SouthShore Chamber, the collection ensures elderly folks with little to no contact with family members receive Christmas gifts from members of the community.
This year’s Senior Giving Tree is spearheaded by Connie Lesko, of the Freedom Plaza Retired Officers Corp., and Sarah Baez, of CarePatrol. Like a busy pair of Santa’s elves, they’re coordinating the event, gathering names from participating senior residences, soliciting donations from the public and wrapping the gifts before delivering them for distribution to the recipients by Christmas.
As always, the public is what makes the Senior Giving Tree so successful.
“Due to the generosity of the community, this has been an extremely popular and rewarding event,” Lesko said. “The residents are so generous. They enjoy shopping to ensure every senior in our community has a wonderful Christmas.
“The event gets bigger and better every year,” she added. “We received hundreds of gifts last year.”
Each participating facility submits a list of residents with their specific needs to the chamber for inclusion in the program.
This year, Palm Gardens, Freedom Plaza Assisted Living, Sun City Center Senior Living, Plaza West, Belvedere Commons, Sun Towers Retirement Community, Cypress Creek Assisted Living and Twin Creeks Assisted Living have submitted lists.
You can help by stopping by or calling one of the Greater South Shore chamber offices at either 4051 Upper Creek Drive, Unit 100, Sun City Center, (813-634-5111) or 201 Shell Point Road W, Ruskin, (813-645-1366) to get the name of a resident or two on the list and an idea of what they need – OR – you can simply buy an item or items off the list below.
What you give and how much is entirely up to you.
All items must be dropped off at one of the chamber offices by Dec. 15. Your gift(s) will be used to make bags for those whose names were not given out or used as additional gifts in gift bags.
Donated gifts can be wrapped, but if they are, the chamber needs a tag or note attached describing what’s inside and whether the gift is for a man or a woman.
Unwrapped gifts will be wrapped by chamber volunteers. Every recipient gets multiple gifts.
List of items most needed:
• pajamas, especially bottoms, sleeping gowns sizes small to 3X.
• men’s T-shirts.
• cardigan sweaters.
• lap quilts, throws.
• hand or body lotions, toiletries, after shave for men, grip socks.
• sugar-free and regular chocolates.
• large print books, puzzle books, large-piece puzzles.
• colored pencils, coloring books and snacks.
• inexpensive jewelry.
Lesko added that oversized Christmas bags and wrapping paper are also needed.
This is Sarah Baez’s third year volunteering for the event. It’s something she says she and her daughter wouldn’t miss.
“It’s important for us to help the Senior Giving Tree continue,” she said. “There are many elderly residents in these communities who aren’t celebrated or visited by family at Christmas, and they don’t receive gifts and little extras that make life more enjoyable.
“It’s also important for my 12-year-old daughter, Victoria, to see the positive impact we can make in their lives. Every year we do this we are reminded that giving truly is as rewarding as receiving.”
For more information on the Senior Giving Tree event, call 813-634-5111 or 813-645-1366.