Giving Tree offers holiday cheer for Walla Walla-area seniors

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WALLA WALLA -- For the second year, the Senior Giving Tree can make a difference in the lives of local senior citizens, organizers say.

The bedecked tree is in the lobby of the Die Br?ºcke Building, 38 E. Main St., and bearing tags of folks who need some Christmas cheer, explained Mindy Stonebraker of Pioneer House retirement community.

"This year there seems to be a trend, especially coming from the skilled nursing facilities. The ones who need items are people who don't have families, mostly they are low income. No one comes to visit them."

In Washington state Medicaid patients receive $56 a month for expenses not covered in room and board charges, she said. That number seems reflected in the items seniors are asking be listed on the tags.

"The higher end might be a shirt or a sweater, but mostly it's simple things like a book or chocolates or socks. Maybe a pack of playing cards. Or jerky -- one gentleman, that's all he wanted."

There are nearly 100 tags for the tree this year, Stonebraker said. "There's such a large population of seniors here and they get forgotten."

She and other organizers would "love" to see a classroom or fraternal group take on a tag or a few as a project, she added.

Some tags may have more than one "wish" listed, but those are only meant to be suggestions and to give gift-buyers options. The recipients are kept confidential and the distribution is facilitated by area nursing homes.

After choosing a tag, participants can return it with an unwrapped gift no later than Dec. 20 to the following locations:

Quail Run Retirement Community, 1701 Plaza Way; Pioneer House, 1018 Whitman St.; Eagle Meadows Assisted Living, 550 E. Whitman St. in College Place or the box placed beside the Senior Giving Tree.

For details, call Annette Phillips at 509-386-5106 or Mindy Stonebraker at 522-4630.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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