For 21 years, Caregiver’s Helping Hand, Inc founder Richedean Hills-Ackbar has provided holiday comfort for 38 local nursing homes, residential centers, and senior living facilities through her annual Christmas Senior Gift Baskets.
Over two decades ago, Richedean realized that not everyone had their older parents living with them. Some were left in nursing homes and had no visitors throughout the year.
“I started nursing home visits with the students at Tampa Bay Vocational Tech in the medical department there. They would go and read to the patients, spend time with them, and earn community service hours. I wrote an intergenerational program for Hillsborough County schools that I taught at Tampa Bay Tech Medical Academy for three years. We discovered nobody was visiting many of these people; either their family had died, or their kids were on the other side of the country. They had nobody to bring them anything – not a card, a blanket, or anything. That’s what we started doing. We got flowers and cards for Valentine’s Day and brought Christmas gifts in December.”
She wants the seniors to know, especially during this time of year compounded by the isolation of the pandemic, they are not forgotten. Last year, with the support of sponsors, Caregiver’s Helping Hand, Inc. donated over 3600 gift baskets to seniors.
Her goal is to exceed that this year.
“Caregivers would like to supply gifts to all of our seniors. Besides volunteers, our most needed items are lotions, shower gel, body wash, sweaters, socks, t-shirts for men and women, and pictures for walls. We need around $6500 to purchase all of the gifts and cards for the Christmas season,” she explained. “We need help filling these lonely and confined seniors’ wish lists. Our volunteers will deliver the gift bags to the seniors in December.”
Richedean wants seniors to know she is with a community of people who care about them and want to bring them a fantastic start to the holidays. Actors/singers Jason and Sonali Duo will be part of that community, performing classic holiday carols at select nursing homes on December 17.
Sonali Balan said, “Isolation in seniors affects memory and causes depression and anxiety. It shouldn’t be viewed as a normal part of aging. We can all make a difference by visiting the elderly and simply having a conversation, offering your company, bringing a thoughtful gift, or playing live music for them. When I sing for seniors, I feel like I have a huge sense of purpose. Music is medicine.”
Jason Ensor agreed that no one should be alone during the holiday season and that holidays should be celebrated with family and friends, near and far.
“Nothing more than love, happiness, and cheer should ever befall anyone during the holiday season, especially seniors who have always cared for us. We should always gather with each other in love, happiness, joy, and memories that will always last a lifetime through the fondness of being together, no matter what,” he said.
Richedean added, “You can see a smile on these people’s faces with just these simple gifts or songs because they hadn’t gotten anything before. That’s why we do this.”
For more information or to donate, please visit our website at www.Chhincvolunteers.org or mail donations to 2621 East Lake Ave, Tampa, Fl 33610. If you are interested in helping deliver, please contact Richedean at email@example.com.
ABOUT CAREGIVER’S HELPING HAND, INC
Caregiver’s Helping Hand, Inc. is a non-profit volunteer organization. Their Intergenerational Program has been helping local seniors since June 15, 2001. They have established a community service organization that impacts the community at large by 1) teaching youth the importance of volunteering and how they can make a positive difference in the lives of others by helping Seniors with Code violations with the City of Tampa by cleaning up and painting their homes, 2) helping young people understand aging and ageism issues like how vital independence is for seniors 3) The charity dispels aging myths by having them interact with healthy seniors as well as disabled adults. They are improving lives in our community with positive intervention for youth and support services for local families and aging adults. Their mission is always to give a helping hand wherever they can in the community.