Robert and Bertha Brown have faced a lot together in their 40 years of marriage. For starters, several years ago Robert was told he had cancer and that he wouldn’t survive. He did. While blessed with health, however, they will struggle to make it on their fixed income as senior citizens.

Bertha says things are especially tough around the holidays.

“We usually have no gifts under our tree for Christmas,” she says.

But last Christmas was different. The Browns received new pajamas and a new toaster, thanks to the “Be a Santa To a Senior” program, which provides needy seniors with donated gifts.

Home Instead Senior Care in Preston Hollow organizes the holiday program, not in its second year, partnering with local nonprofit agencies to identify seniors in need. These seniors then make a wish list of gifts they’d like to receive.

Nancy Oppenheimer-Marks, Home Instead Senior Care’s owner, says the seniors usually request very basic things.

“I remember the Browns just really wanted a new toaster. She had won one during the ‘70s, and when it broke, they couldn’t afford another,” she says. “These seniors usually need things like food, slippers, nightgowns and blood pressure machines.”

These wish-list requests are put onto little ornaments, which then adorn Christmas trees inside various North Dallas and Preston Hollow retailers. That way, anybody who wants to sponsor a senior can simply pluck an ornament off the Christmas tree.

Once the gifts have been purchased, they are returned unwrapped to one of the participating retailers. This year, donated gifts will be collected through Monday, Dec. 11; on Tuesday, Dec. 12, there will be a gift wrapping party at Jesuit High School at 4:30 p.m.

Suzanne Cobb, director of guardianship and money management program at the Senior Source, says more than anything, these gifts spread joy.

“It shows these seniors that somebody cares about them, and that’s probably the most important thing because it makes them feel good. If everyone could see the light in their faces, it would encourage them to give.”

Oppenheimer-Marks says the program especially makes sense during the holiday season, a time when families are often together. “Many of these seniors are all alone for the holidays,” she says. “And children tend to be at the center of the holidays, and they should be. But my hope is that our community will leave a little thought for the seniors this holiday season.”

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