NEWBERRY — In early July when temperatures were hovering near 100 degrees and most people were beach bound or just trying to find ways to beat the heat, a group of rising seniors from Newberry High School was busy organizing the second Secret Santa for Seniors project in Newberry County.
Inspired by similar programs that provide Christmas gifts to children, the Living Water Foundation and Newberry High School seniors have created a program to make sure the season is merry and bright for elderly members of the community as well.
“Most high school students never realize there are literally hundreds of seniors in their own community who do have not family and are alone,” said Newberry High School Guidance Counselor Candice Dixon. “By connecting the two generations of seniors, this project not only provides a rich experience for the students but also gives them an opportunity to share the Christmas spirit in a deep and meaningful way to those that may have been overlooked.”
Uniquely designed to focus on financially challenged or isolated seniors, the project works by confidentially accepting referrals from local non-profits, healthcare providers, service organizations, and churches. Beginning November 26 and running through Dec. 19, a tree inside the Wendy’s 2900 Main St. location will feature ornaments with first names only and a suggested gift item.
Holiday shoppers and patrons can choose an ornament, purchase the suggested gift, and return it unwrapped to the store. Generic donations of socks, slippers, blankets and canned goods will also be accepted. Secret Santa for Seniors volunteers will collect, wrap, and deliver the gifts by Dec. 19 with the help of the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office.
“Each year, many of our elderly neighbors celebrate the holiday without friends or family,” said Sheriff Lee Foster. “We are delighted to participate in such a heart-warming project.”
The community is invited to attend the official kick-off and tree decorating celebration, hosted by Wendy’s on Monday at 6 p.m.
Even Santa Claus will make an early stop in Newberry to join special guest, Newberry Mayor Foster Senn who will kick off the event and hang the first ornament.
“Newberry is such a generous community so it’s not surprising to see this generosity being passed on to our younger generation,” said Mayor Senn. “I can’t think of a better way for our students, residents and businesses to help brighten the holidays and show our gratitude to those who have contributed so much to our community.”
“The project was such a success the first year we fully anticipate the number of seniors we serve to double,” Renee’ Martin, executive director of the Living Water Foundation said. “Our dream is to ultimately expand the project to other area high schools and eventually across the state.”
To make referrals, donations, or request more information contact Renee’ Martin at 803-530-6720.
The Living Water Foundation is a 501(3) non-profit organization encouraging all people of Newberry County to achieve a better quality of life through education, resource information and/or financial assistance.