Mary Dickens received a bath robe and bedroom shoe set from a stranger at Christmas last year – a gesture that might seem small to some but one that brought a smile to her face.
“I was just so thankful for it,” the 95-year-old widow said. “I wanted to write them a thank you note, but I didn’t know who to thank. I just want them to know how much I appreciated it, though. It is the little things like that that mean so much.”
Dickens and 85 other area senior citizens participated in the first year of the Santa for Seniors program through the Nash County Senior Center and area Walgreens stores. Similar to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, needy senior citizens apply to receive a gift from an anonymous donor. Ornaments with the participants’ names and wish list will decorate Christmas trees at Walgreens stores in Rocky Mount starting Monday then wrapped presents can be dropped off at any of the stores or the senior center in Nashville by Dec. 11. On Dec. 17, Walgreens staff and other volunteers will deliver the gifts to the participants.
“I didn’t know they were going to, but they delivered the gift right to my door last year and wished me ‘Merry Christmas,’” Dickens said. “It was just like Santa Clause coming.”
Blake Rhudy, manager of the Walgreens on Raleigh Boulevard, said he really enjoyed seeing the smiles on the faces of the recipients. Nash County Senior Center Coordinator Christy Southall said 65 adults 60 years old and older have applied to participate this year with applications being accepted until Thanksgiving.
“Last year, every ornament that was picked up was returned with a gift – and that is amazing,” Southall said. “Hopefully, the program runs as smoothly this year as it did last.”
Rhudy said last year the store on Sunset Avenue ran out of ornaments almost everyday, so some changes will be made to make sure everyone who wants to contribute can. Southall said the success of the program exemplifies the strength of the community.
“I think this is one of the greatest ministries out there,” Dickens said.
The Rocky Mount Senior Center also has some holiday programming planned for members, including a luncheon and Christmas tour.
“We want to let them know they are not forgotten,” center Manager Alex Langley said. “They have done so much for their children and loved ones, so we want to make sure that love is given back to them.”
“The seniors who are in assisted living facilities really don’t get the opportunity to get out in the community and enjoy the Christmas spirit like they did when they were a kid,” Langley said. “We want them to know they are still an important part of our community and show our support for them by getting them involved with the community as a whole.”