The 23rd annual Elves for Elders campaign has grown to aid thousands of senior citizens in having a happy holiday. They receive gifts and sometimes more from the community through “stars” picked up at various merchants throughout the state.
The objective of Elves for Elders is obtaining gifts for seniors in statewide facilities who might not otherwise receive a gift during the holidays. The program has grown from 300 gifts in its initial year to over 2,700 gifts in the past five years.
These gifts arrive from donations made by individuals and company drives. Presents range from pajamas and other clothing to toiletries (shaving cream, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes, as examples). The gifts are placed in bags and are transported to the area care facilities to be given to the residents.
Event Founder and Coordinator Maxine Mae Hutchins said that while people must still remain vigilant—particularly in the healthcare industry—current events make it possible to make it more in-person and less distant.
“This began as an idea to show seniors that they have not been forgotten,” said Hutchins, who works at Right at Home in Warwick. “The amount of support we received over the past several years has been fantastic and much appreciated. It keeps growing because more people want to help. That means being able to reach more seniors who may not have the benefit of family or relatives nearby.”
The Elves for Elders program began from a simple act of kindness, according to Hutchins. She decided to hand make and send out holiday greetings to seniors who she discovered received nothing for the holidays. Reasons stemmed from the person not having family members in the area to being alone. It was a comment from one recipient, who said that was the only card she got, that sparked Hutchins with the idea that continues to today.
The program works in getting gifts for seniors. Participants are asked to provide details—regarding something they either want or need. It could be a pair of pants, shirts, accessories, or anything else, within reason. The gift requests are written on paper “stars” with the person’s request and specifics. Anyone who wants to contribute may purchase the star request, put them in a gift bag, and deliver them to desired locations throughout Rhode Island.
On November 1st, there will be a tree at Warwick Mall, located at the customer service booth, near the center of the mall. Paper stars will be placed on the tree with a senior’s first name, gift request, and size. Participants can select a star or multiple stars, make the purchase, and return the gift or gifts (along with a gift bag) to the customer service desk.
Other tree locations are:
- Cara Benjamin Allstate Insurance Agency, 125 Eddie Dowling Highway, North Smithfield
- Coffee and Cream, 900 Victory Highway, North Smithfield
- Davenport’s Restaurant, 1070 Mendon Road, Cumberland
- Davenport’s Restaurant, 1925 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence
- Face First, 501 Great Road, Suite 105, North Smithfield
- Lulu’s Krazy Daisy Fashion Consignment, 706 St. Paul Street, North Smithfield
- Mission Nutrition, 156 Gansett Avenue, Cranston
- North Smithfield Auto Center, 106 Greenville Road, North Smithfield
- Poppy’s, 3344 Mendon Road, Cumberland
- Rad Fitness, 154 Smithfield Avenue, Pawtucket
- Salon Sunflower, 662 Great Road, North Smithfield
- Shana’s Kitchen, 1517 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln
- The Art of You, 73 Eddie Dowling Highway, North Smithfield
- We Roast, 216 Front Street, Lincoln
The tree at Warwick Mall comes down on December 10th, so that is when the “elves” collect, sort, and assemble the packages. The gifts are then distributed to various locations across Rhode Island.
Hutchins usually plans a day for the elves to put the gifts together for the big drop later in December. That volunteer event takes place on December 15th, at American Safety & Training, on 150 Niantic Avenue in Providence.
“The need for gifts is still relevant, even during these uncertain times,” Hutchins said.
“There are still protocols in place at nursing homes and at these facilities because of the threat of spreading the virus,” said Hutchins. “That makes what we do even more important. We don’t know what will happen during the next few months with mandates and regulations. So, it’s important to make sure we have everything in place and deliver these bags of cheer to these people.”
“Getting some type of gift from anyone—be it from a family member or a total stranger—can make that person’s day,” she added.
“The stars can be a jumping off point,” Hutchins said. Donors have also included gift cards, perfume/cologne, soap, Q-Tips, shower caps, and other treats, along with the main gift. She explained that seniors are on a fixed income and may not have the resources or transportation to pick up those necessities.
When the trees come down on December 10th, there are often stars that are not taken and filled. We, as a community, can ensure that no stars remain on the tree. Our senior population is most vulnerable for many reasons, so we should value and honor them, especially during the holiday season. Let’s show our treasured elders that we haven’t forgotten them.
This year’s fundraiser will be held at Quarter Auction on October 26th, at Halcyon at West Bay, 2783 West Shore Road in Warwick.
For more information about the project and to learn how you can help, please contact Maxine Hutchins at firstname.lastname@example.org.