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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Fresno and Madera campuses help local seniors feel the holiday spirit

January 10, 2019

SJVC-Fresno-Madera-join-Be-a-Santa-2018Older people are often the ones who feel lonely and left out during the holidays, as many family members have grown apart or away from each other. Christmas can be a particularly hard time for seniors with few financial resources and very little emotional support.

For the third year in a row, SJVC’s Fresno and Madera campuses have worked with Home Instead Senior Care, a local organization that serves indigent or secluded elderly, to make Christmas a little brighter. “Volunteers like to participate in BASTA (Be a Santa to a Senior) because it’s a way to support our community’s low income and/or isolated seniors,” says Summer Boesch, Marketing Director for Home Instead Senor Care.

Each year for the last 15 years, Home Instead invites businesses to “Be a Santa to a Senior” by raising funds and purchasing winter weather essentials, such as hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, socks, slippers, sweatpants and sweatshirts, and a few indoor games such as puzzles and crossword books. Those cozy items are wrapped and given to those most in need just before Christmas.

The two SJVC campuses started their fundraising campaign in September to have plenty of time to raise enough money for the Warm Gift Drive and shopping spree they anticipated. The first year, they raised enough to contribute 300 items to the Be a Santa program; the second year, 600 items; and in 2018, they broke their record with 800 items.

“Our goal was to raise $500, but raised $800,” says Devon Dilley, Regional Career Services Director for the Fresno and Madera campuses. Both campuses held Jean Days to raise money for gift purchases. “We cleaned out every Dollar Store in Fresno,” laughs Devon.

SJVC also hosted the wrap party on December 8th at the Fresno campus where more than 20 participating businesses dropped off their gifts for wrapping. “We had 46 people volunteer that included our staff, faculty, friends and family, plus volunteers from Senior Care and from the community,” says Devon. “One woman whose husband had received services from Home Instead, but was no longer with her, volunteered. They had taken such good care of him that she wanted to help out and give back.”

Devon’s volunteer organizers and gift-wrappers included Krys Nelson, Madera campus Safety and Facilities manager, Melisa Davis and Maggie Maldonado from the Fresno campus Admissions team, Fresno Campus President Jerry Franksen and his son, Fresno campus Dental Assisting Program Director Cynthia Cuellar, Sherri Woods and Emily McGaughey from Home Instead, and several of Devon’s family members and friends. Two students from the Madera campus made the drive to spend the day immersed in boxes, ribbons and wrapping paper. “I don’t know how many thousands of items we had to wrap,” offers Devon.

“Lenny Landa, who graduated the previous year from the Madera campus Medical Assisting program and was a recipient of SJVC’s Founders’ Award, came back to the campus just to donate,” says Devon.

SJVC has a long history of staff, faculty and student volunteerism in all the communities they serve and make it a priority to align themselves with those organizations committed to helping others. Home Instead is one of those entities.

This past Christmas, Home Instead provided 1,500 gifts to more than 18 senior communities, including the Veterans Hospital. On an ongoing basis, they provide non-medical support and services, including personal care, memory care and hospice support for seniors in the Central Valley. “Our compassionate CARE Givers assist elder clients with common activities of daily living like showering, cooking, errands and transportation,” says Summer. “Our mission is to provide compassionate care to seniors and their families while aging in-place with dignity and grace.”

The Fresno campus is already thinking about next year’s partnership with Home Instead and ways to make an even greater contribution to those who appreciate the holiday spirit that volunteers bring.