The holiday season brings the best in
people since they are receptive to giving. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s
Day, people donate frequently to not only feel good about themselves, but to
also get the tax benefits associated with helping others.
There are groups, such as senior
citizens, who might have several reasons for not getting any attention. They
might live alone and do not have family living in the area. Or, they have
mobility issues and cannot go out and get things for themselves. That’s why a
program created by Maxine Hutchins provides homebound and lonely seniors a gift
for the holiday season brings more than just smiles.
“Seniors are often a forgotten group
when it comes to the holiday season,” said Hutchins, who works at Right at Home
in Warwick and whose Elves for Elders
program has operated for 16 years. “They may not have the means or the resources
to see friends, family and/or relatives. We provide cheer and hope to these people,
so they feel wanted and know that other people are looking out for them.”
Hutchins said the roots of Elves for
Elders began when she worked as a social
worker in senior housing. She made Christmas cards for 200 residents that drew
concerns from friends and colleagues saying it would be wasting her time. Hutchins
said when one of her residents thanked her for the card stating it was the only
one she received for Christmas that gave her all the motivation necessary to continue.
resident had never married and had no children. Then, I thought if I’m the only
one that gave her a card, and I certainly did not give her a gift, then how sad
is that; not receiving any gifts at Christmas?” she said.
began a non-profit association of women who provide services to seniors called
Seniors RULE (Resources Unlimited – Liaisons for Elders). They meet monthly to participate
in community events to act as a one-stop resource for seniors and/or their
caregivers. Part of being a member is supporting Elves for Elders, she noted.
the Elves for Elders program grew, Hutchins said she needed to move the holding
site for the gifts. Three years ago, she found her current site at Lakewood
Baptist Church in Warwick. She collected gifts from the malls after
Thanksgiving weekend and held them at the church until our ‘wrapping’ event,
where the group sorted and assembled the gifts. She added that the group did
all of the wrapping until five years ago, when they requested gift bags be
included with the stars.
“Elves for Elders
is a program designed to obtain gifts for seniors in various facilities statewide
who might not otherwise receive a gift for the Holiday Season,” Hutchins said. “Over the past two
years, we have averaged 1,200 gift requests from 22 various nursing homes, day
cares, senior centers and subsidized assisted livings.”
November 1, there will be trees that will display stars at various malls
throughout the region. These stars include a gift for an elder that customers
can pick up and purchase. All tress will be up at Emerald Square Mall in
Attleboro, Wrentham Village Outlets, Catherine Specialty Clothing in Cranston,
Mission Nutrition in Cranston and Warwick Mall. The trees will be taken down
from their respective posts on December 10.
said the way it works is that patrons pick up a star at the mall’s courtesy
desk. The star will have the senior’s first name and the type of the present
they would like. As examples, a woman named “Mary” might want a pair of size-8
slippers or and man named “Sam” may want a pair of extra-large pajamas. The
person purchases the item or items and returns them to the courtesy desk with
receive a lot of requests for clothes, but it’s not confined to just that,” she
said. “People can ask for anything such as toiletries, personal items or even
things outside the box. We want to give people what they ask for and have a
suggests that the gifts come in a gift bag with the star attached to the bag.
All donations are due back to the respective malls by December 10. A few days after
that date, Hutchins and her “Elves” will collect the items from the malls, sort
and arrange the gifts to be sent to the appropriate facilities and deliver
More information, including anyone who is interested in becoming an ‘elf’ for this holiday season to, may contact Maxine Mae Hutchins 401-286-3821 or by email at email@example.com.