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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Christmas spirit reaches senior citizens despite Coronavirus restrictions

January 7, 2021
Christmas spirit reaches senior citizens despite Coronavirus restrictions header

Christmas can be an especially difficult and emotional time for the elderly, who are often alone and/or infirm. For many, holiday celebrations are remote memories of times past. The coronavirus has only increased their isolation, as in-person visits are further restricted.

Home Instead provides non-medical support and services, including personal care, memory care and hospice support for hundreds of seniors in the Central Valley. Each Christmas, for 16-years, they have also invited businesses to raise funds for Be a Santa to a Senior (BASTAS) with which they buy winter essentials such as hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, socks, slippers, sweatpants and sweatshirts, along with indoor board games for those elders in need of those small comforts and, perhaps, a bit of loving attention.

“There are charities that give to children during the holidays, but seniors are often forgotten,” says Deanna Ash, Career Services Advisor on SJVC’s Fresno campus. “There are seniors in facilities or in their own homes who do not have family or children to visit them.”

This is San Joaquin Valley College’s 4th year to participate, this year represented by the Fresno, Madera, Visalia, Aviation and TEC campuses.

In years past, SJVC’s participating campus’ students spent months raising funds through food sales, dress-down days and car washes with which to buy Christmas items and provide financial support for this once-a-year event. However, this year’s safety protocols in response to CoVid-19 changed everything except the spirit behind their efforts.

“In 2020 when things have been so difficult, people still want to do good and still want to bring joy at Christmas for seniors,” says Deanna. “Remember, these seniors have been on complete lockdown since March. There was no relenting of restrictions for them.”

Until recently, coronavirus safety protocols forced SJVC students to move to online studies, which made this year’s Be a Santa to a Senior support a more difficult collaboration. But BASTAS volunteers were not even remotely considering withdrawing support for these most vulnerable communities of too-often, invisible elders.

 “Even in the darkest times, there’s always a ray of light,” says Deanna.  SJVC participants had some high voltage ready to go. “I’ve gotten nothing but positive response from staff, faculty and students.”

The teams on each campus rolled up their sleeves and went straight to work. In light of coronavirus-mandated constraints, BASTAS student, staff and faculty volunteers had to forego traditional fund-raising, group meetings and gift shopping ventures. Instead, fundraising and gift-giving were restricted to three creative options for organizers and contributors: 1) Home Instead created a virtual gift tree on their website where contributors could purchase wished-for gifts online and ship free through Amazon Prime accounts. 2) Donations of cash, check or gift cards to Walmart or Target could be taken to a Home Instead’s drop box or mailed directly to their Fresno facility. 3) Appropriate gifts could be tagged from SJVC then mailed to or delivered in-person to Home Instead.

“My family chose #2,” says Michelle Story, Medical Assisting program faculty at the Visalia campus. “(We are) Always happy to give back to the generation that paved the way for all those to follow.”

 

Fundraising and gift-giving for Be a Santa to a Senior may have been a different experience for SJVC volunteers this year, but these teams-from-a-distance made a loving impact on hundreds of lives.

“All of the virtual online tree presents were bought,” says Deanna of the success of this year’s support. SJVC’s Fresno campus donation of $2,000.00 was delivered to Home Instead in person. “The Surgical Technology program’s club donated $1,000.00 and the Student Council matched that donation,” says Deanna. Hundreds of individual gifts found the frail hands of appreciative seniors.

Home Instead was enormously grateful for SJVC’s financial contribution. “Two thousand dollars is significant to Home Instead, and they cried when we gave it to them,” says Deanna, who also heard that SJVC was the biggest donor for the event this year.

So many seniors in care facilities, assisted living complexes, Veteran’s hospital or those barely hanging onto their independent living situation, felt the sincere affection and emotional boost of this organized holiday blessing. San Joaquin Valley College was proud to be part of that show of support to those most vulnerable among us.

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