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ElderHelp Seeks 2009 Holiday Angels

(SAN DIEGO) Each year, ElderHelp of San Diego, through its Holiday Angel program, delivers gift baskets throughout San Diego to seniors living alone and often without families. Last year over 350 gift baskets brightened the holiday season for some of San Diego’s elder residents.

Many San Diego seniors struggle all year long with the basic necessities we often take for granted. They battle with the decision to refill their medications or purchase groceries - to pay the utility bill or purchase a bus pass to get to medical appointments and many of them spend most of their time alone.

Who is ElderHelp?

ElderHelp was established in 1973 in response to the rising needs of seniors in failing health, poverty and isolation. For the first 12 years, the organization worked from the basement of a church and offered over two dozen programs. In the mid 90s, with the senior population escalating, they took several critical steps to ensure the organization would continue to thrive.

ElderHelp formed a multi-agency collaboration called Senior Neighborhood Network (SNN) and established two distinct service models. The first was a “product line” consisting of a specific set of services including one-on-one and group counseling, legal assistance, classes, tax and insurance counseling, problem solving and opportunities for meaningful volunteer involvement. The second offered core services such as needs assessment, care planning and shopping to help frail seniors remain independent in their own homes. Both were developed to help seniors make wise choices.

Today, ElderHelp of San Diego is an integral part of the spectrum of government, health care and community based providers and the only agency solely focused on providing affordable services and programs to seniors within their own homes. Last year they served nearly 5,000 seniors mostly with a volunteer staff of a few hundred.

Holiday Angels Wanted

The Holiday Angels Program began in 1985 when a group of school children prepared gift baskets for seniors living alone or without families, to ensure they would receive a friendly holiday visitor bearing a gift or food basket. For many, it was the first gift they had received in years.

Over the past 20+ years, the program has evolved into a collaborative effort with numerous individuals and organizations considered "Holiday Angels."

Holiday Angels is supported by community donors - individuals, families, corporations, service organizations and employee groups - that create gift baskets, purchase grocery gift certificates or special gifts that the senior needs, but cannot afford. Gifts are delivered throughout the holidays by volunteers and staff, and most recently, by UPS drivers who with their families, deliver truckloads of presents, holiday trees and plants.

The impact of the program has been substantial. The eldest senior receiving a gift last year was 103. Another senior who only had his dog to celebrate with, was overjoyed to receive a large basket filled with gifts and treats for himself and his four-legged friend. According to program organizers- the thank you letters have been heartwarming.

Wrote Phillys G, "Just a note to thank you so much for helping me. I never forget people's kindness. You continue to make a dreary, void life full of gladness. You help me to live a life of hope and feel more 'normal' by actually being able to have food and help. You’re always in my prayers!"

There are many ways to help the Holiday Angels spread holiday cheer. By volunteering, donating or delivering gifts you are sure to feel the holiday spirit and warmth of knowing you did something special and brought happiness to lonely homebound seniors.

To become a Holiday Angel, please contact Cynthia Beisiegel at 619-284-9281 ext. 14 or via e-mail at cbeisiegel@elderhelpofsandiego.org before November 23.