PITTSFIELD -- The shopping, you did. Wrapping and delivery? Well, that was up to staff and volunteers of Home Instead on Wednesday evening.
They performed the task with zeal. More than 600 presents bound for 231 area seniors were wrapped and bagged inside two hours. The "elves" bustled in every room of Home Instead's three-story headquarters on South Street throughout that span.
The program, "Be a Santa to a Senior," has become a community staple during the holidays.
"We've been doing this for 10 years, and every year it's grown," said Dorsey Hydon, recruiting manager of the agency. Last year, participants shopped for 194 seniors.
It's come to involve a host of participants, from area high and elementary schools to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office -- all to brighten up the holidays for a senior who may be in need, or lacking in nearby family.
Gina Isenhart, community relations manager at Home Instead, said she goes out delivering these gifts every year.
"What I always take away is the gift is totally and completely secondary," Isenhart said.
"Yeah, the gifts go into the corner," said Hydon.
"It's the visit and the face-to-face contact," Isenhart said. "They invite you in, give you a hug, put on cocoa, start a conversation. Of course, a warm throw and a pair of new socks and slippers don't hurt, either."
In September, volunteers posted four trees in busy locations around the county. Much like in the Elf Program, the ornaments on the tree represent the person takers will shop for. Social workers collect information about each senior and their potential needs.
For the second year, students at Williamstown, Crosby and Stearns elementary schools wrote personalized holiday greetings and decorated bags for each of the gift recipients.
"Oftentimes it's more the bag than the presents," said Donna Smith, co-owner of Home Instead. "And the kids really outdid themselves this year."
Sponsors who bought for a number of seniors included FedEx, Williamstown Medical Associates, Lee Lions Club, the District Attorney's Office, classes at Taconic and other area schools. Wrappers sometimes get a kick from the presents.
"I've had Elvis and Rock Hudson posters, 'I Love Lucy' DVDs, all sorts of stuffed animals -- even a portable CD player and headphones," Hydon said.
Grocery and Walmart gift cards, books of crossword and Sudoku puzzles, toiletries and warm clothing are common gifts.
Deliveries to both personal residences and nursing homes begin Monday. At one of the biggest gift stops -- Hillcrest Commons Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, with roughly 45 senior recipients -- Taconic seniors will don Santa caps and give presents.
"They really love that part," Hydon said.
To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD