Elderly in the Fresno/Madera community feel some SJVC student love
“There are over 2,000 senior citizens in Fresno and Madera counties that have nobody,” says Devon Dilley, Career Services Manager for the Fresno and Madera campuses. “Some of them are completely isolated and have no visitors for Christmas. A lot of seniors don’t have enough warm clothing, or maybe their house is cold.”
A heartfelt intention found its way to a very specific need.
While developing a new extern site for Business Administration program students, Devon discovered that Home Instead Senior Care holds an annual holiday drive to collect gifts for many low-income and lonely seniors in the Fresno/Madera community. Home Instead distributes donation boxes to a variety of volunteer stations to collect unwrapped gifts of welcome winter items such as scarves, fuzzy socks, gloves, caps, beanies, ear muffs and blankets to warm the bodies and hearts of some of those seniors with few resources.
“We just found out about this a couple of weeks ago, but thought it would be great if our Madera campus collected 100 items and our Fresno campus collected 200 items,” says Devon. “We also had a Jeans Day to raise money, which we stretched at our local Dollar Store to buy several more items.”
Raul Ponce Jr., Business Program instructor at the Madera campus, went into each classroom to announce the campus’ commitment and to ask for students to help. “We needed to focus on the elderly, and our students were excited about it and were willing to help,” says Raul. “Home Instead had given us a collection box and we decorated it, which gave students a lot of incentive.”
Lynn Chambers, a Medical Office Administration program student, took the challenge personally. She hand-made two blankets that took her about four hours to complete. “I just think of them (seniors) as my grandparents, and I knew it would just make them feel more loved,” she says. “It’s more special when you do it from the heart.”
Each fleece blanket was made to fit head-to-toe and perfect for winter evenings spent reading, watching TV or catching an afternoon nap. “I tried to make sure that they cover up all the way and weren’t too heavy,” says Lynn. “I would love to see the response from the joy they’ll receive from all these gifts; but I know they’re going to love them.”
Home Instead Senior Care has partnered with many companies and agencies, including San Joaquin Valley College, to collect items for donation. Christmas packages will be distributed to the elderly through 11 entities in the Central Valley, from nursing homes to the Salvation Army network.
Mysti Harrison, MS, Home Care Consultant for Home Instead Senior Care, reports that there are easily over 10,000 seniors who would qualify for the gift boxes her agency will prepare. “We’ve identified almost 1,000 seniors in our communities; people who live on a fixed income, some isolated,” she says. “There are just so many still living in their homes that we can’t identify. We’re talking about seniors who don’t have a grandson to make them a potholder, or any family at all; so, this is the only Christmas they’re going to get.”
“I’m excited and amazed that the students rallied around this cause,” says Raul. “Our students (Madera campus) are so family-oriented, they will do just about anything for their instructors, their school and for their community. And they’re helping the group that is the wisest because they’ve been around a long time. We should think about older people, especially.”
“Volunteer work is very important because some of our students might have family members or neighbors who are in need; and many of our students will be working with elderly people in their chosen career fields,” says Devon.
Both campuses threw themselves into this opportunity to help the most vulnerable among us. “I have been nothing but impressed,” says Mysti. “Their (SJVC students/staff/faculty) devotion to the care of seniors is awesome. It was nice to see someone want to participate in this project, then take it on 100 percent!”
The final collection count was taken on Monday, December 5th, and both campuses met their goals. Madera campus collected 101 items and Fresno campus collected 270, for a total of 371 items to be included in the gift boxes.
Some SJVC students will volunteer to help package and wrap the 1,000 gifts that will find their way into grateful hearts.
“Each year, this allows us to give back to the people we can’t always serve,” says Mysti. “Their general feeling is one of gratefulness. During the holiday, we think so much about the children, but we should also not forget about the seniors. If it wasn’t for them, we all wouldn’t be here.”
The Madera and Fresno campuses are already planning on doubling their gift goals for next year.