MANATEE -- It's often said making sure all needy children have a wonderful holiday season is a community responsibility.
At least one group in Bradenton believes needy local senior citizens should be treated with equal compassion.
"Seniors can easily be overlooked during the holiday season," said Lisa Herlache, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care, which has directed in-home care to seniors from its office at 5239 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton for 12 years. "There are many seniors right here in Bradenton who have nothing and no one."
Home Instead Senior Care has sponsored "Be a Santa To a Senior" for 11 of the last 12 years by providing gifts and companionship to seniors.
"Last year we didn't have the necessary volunteers so we had to cancel it," Herlache said. "But we are back this year."
Participating retail locations will display Be a Santa To a Senior Christmas trees through Dec. 10 with ornaments bearing names and gift requests, Herlache said.
Be a Santa to a Senior Christmas trees can be found at Bealls Outlets, Bon Worth locations and Bradenton Budget Self Storage outlets.
"Shoppers pick ornaments from the trees, buy the listed items and return them to the store unwrapped and with the ornament attached," Herlache said.
Program partners and volunteers will wrap and deliver the gifts.
"These requests are often a pair of slippers or a small pharmacy gift card," said Gabriella Ferrari, a Home Instead Senior Care spokeswoman.
Home Instead Senior Care puts the word out to "tons" of nursing homes and tries to fill needs at all of them, Herlache said.
Barbara Miles, activity director at Bradenton's Westminster Manor, recalls bringing her children in to give gifts for clients.
"We have residents who have family out of town and have no one for Christmas," Miles said. "So, to give every resident a nice new gift was wonderful. Home Instead does this for not just us, but for tons of local nursing homes."
Miles' children came away saying: "They only got one gift and I have a hundred under the tree," Miles said.
"It puts things in perspective," Miles said. "I'm thrilled they are doing it again."
Gifts given to Westminster residents have included new shoes, a bright scarf, Christmas sweater, jewelry, warm jacket or a jogging suit, Miles said.
At Manatee's lower scale nursing homes, the gifts tend to be more basic.
"At the nursing homes that aren't as upscale, there are seniors who need the most simple things such as sweaters, socks, soap, deodorant and other toiletries," Herlache said.
"For our most needy seniors, a new top for the holidays or a sweater or a blanket can make all the difference in the world." Herlache added.
'Santa' trees at various outlets
Be A Santa To a Senior trees are at the following locations:
Bealls Outlet-Beachway Shopping Center, 7212 Manatee Ave. W., 941-794-0981.
Bealls Outlet-Ellenton-North River Village, 6242 U.S. 301, 941-723-7430.
Bealls Outlet, 4902 Cortez Road W., 941-761-2519.
Bealls Outlet, 3905 Manatee Ave W., 941-746-3288.
Bon Worth, 6363 Manatee Ave. W., 941-795-8133.
Bon Worth, Bayshore Gardens Target Center, 6110 14th St. W., 941-755-5626.
Budget Self Storage, 6801 Cortez Road W., 941-761-9304.
Information: Go to BeaSantatoaSenior.com or call 941-739-3050.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.