By Sean Barron
Rita Somich looked forward to conducting Bible studies twice a month for residents at Beeghly Oaks Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and brightening their days.
“They’re precious. I love older people,” the Poland woman said after her 30-minute workout Monday at Curves, a fitness center for women at 7050 Market St.
Somich also enjoys giving back to senior citizens in other ways, such as participating in this year’s “Be a Santa to a Senior” program, sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care Inc. of Austintown.
The holiday program, in its eighth year, began Monday and continues through Dec. 10.
On Monday, Home Instead erected Christmas trees at six area businesses, including the Boardman Curves, to kick off the program, set up to collect, wrap and deliver gifts to brighten the holidays for lonely seniors as well as those in need.
Participants remove from the trees ornaments that contain the names and gift choices of senior citizens, then buy the items before Home Instead volunteers wrap and distribute the gifts.
Items will be collected through Dec. 10 and delivered from Dec. 17 to 21.
The Omaha, Neb.-based Home Instead Senior Care runs the “Be a Santa” program, which has provided about 1.2 million presents to more than 700,000 seniors nationwide since its inception, according to the program’s website.
Somich, whose mother was a resident at Beeghly Oaks, said she’s taken part in the program for about seven years.
Her main joy comes from helping those who are less fortunate, she continued.
“It makes me feel good to give back,” added Somich.
Six area businesses are taking part in the program, noted Dottie Johntony, Home Instead’s director of client relations.
This year, Home Instead took an estimated 400 names of seniors in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties from agencies such as Hands On Volunteer Network of the Valley, Catholic Charities Regional Agency, Trumbull County Probate Court and various nursing homes, she explained.
“The [program’s] goal is to provide gifts to bring joy into someone’s life who doesn’t have anybody,” said Johntony, adding that typical items include pairs of socks and slippers, body lotions, blankets, bathrobes, under- garments, photo boards and DVDs.
In addition, Johntony said, students from the Trumbull Career & Technical Center in Warren are to set up a Christmas tree with 125 ornaments fellow students and faculty will be able to select on behalf of seniors.
The holidays are the most difficult time of year for many senior citizens largely because they have no families and few friends, or have outlived their loved ones, Johntony noted.
“Everybody likes to feel special, and everybody thinks of the kids and not the elderly” during the holidays, she said, adding that the program has served about 5,000 seniors locally.