Ruth looked around her room and saw that it was still dark outside. She was chilled, so she pulled the bedspread up to her chin. The little pink flowers reminded her of the garden she and her Mama used to have on the farm. They spent hours together working in the garden, while Mama sang songs. Tucked warmly under the covers, Ruth hummed her favorite one, “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey…”
Mama and Papa named her Ruth after a favorite aunt, but they always called her “Sunshine” after her favorite song. Even though it was three of them, Ruth, Mama and Papa, Ruth was never lonely. There were always plenty of people working on the farm. Every Sunday, Mama cooked a big meal and invited their workers and neighbors to the feast. Mama was known throughout the county for her famous fried chicken.
While they prepared the meal, Mama laughed about the antics of the week, “Wasn’t that funny when Elmer didn’t close the gate properly and the pigs got out? What a sight! Watching Elmer trying to catch them. Then you and Papa decided to help!”
Lying in bed, Ruth chuckled while remembering the incident. They eventually caught the pigs and returned them to their pen, but Ruth and Papa were covered in mud. Mama immediately sent them to the creek to wash.
Ruth sighed, “That was a long time ago. I miss you Mama.” Then she reached for the buzzer on the nightstand and remembered, “Of course it is chilly, it’s December.” She continued to think about Mama’s garden while she waited.
“Good Morning, Miss Ruthie. You’re up early today,” Lucy bustled into the room, flipped on the lights and opened the curtains, “Goodness, the sun isn’t even up yet! It feels like winter today, even for Phoenix. You’re definitely going to need your green sweater.”
Lucy pushed Ruth’s wheelchair over to the bed, “Shall we get you ready for the day?” Ruth swung her legs to the side of the bed and reached for the wheelchair. “Whoa, slow down there, Miss Ruthie, and give yourself a minute before you leap out of bed.”
Ruth sat on the side of the bed, “Lucy, did I ever tell you about the time the pigs got out of their pen?”
Although Lucy had heard this story multiple times, she responded, “What happened Miss Ruthie?”
Ruth giggled, “It was so funny, Papa and I chasing those pigs with Mama yelling at us. By the time we caught them all, we were covered in mud! Mama made us march down to the creek to wash. She wouldn’t let us step one foot inside the house until we were clean!”
“That must have been quite a sight!” Lucy reached for Ruth’s waist, “Now come on Sunshine, get up slowly and we’ll get you dressed.”
Ruth asked, “Am I expecting any visitors today? Are Amy and Nick coming to see me?”
“Now, Miss Ruthie, remember, your kids live and work the farm in Iowa. It’s hard for them to get away. You and Eddie moved here years ago to enjoy the sunshine, Sunshine. Come on, where is that green sweater I gave you for Christmas a few years ago?”
Ruth looked around the room for the sweater. There were pictures of her family everywhere. Mama and Papa on the farm, Eddie and her on their wedding day, and, of course, lots of pictures of Amy and Nick and their families.
“Lucy, what is Amy’s husband’s name?”
“Why Miss Ruthie, you know that. It is John.”
“Yes, yes, of course. John. And Jack and Beth are my grandchildren.”
“That’s right. And Nick is married to Susan. And their children are Tom, Martha, and Gracie. Tom has a baby now, Sophia. You are a Great Grandmother!”
“A Great Grandmother…”
“Today is a special day because it’s our Holiday Party! Let’s get you over to the dining room. I have a busy day getting ready for your party.”
“Of course, I didn’t mean to take so much of your time,” Ruth put her arm through the sweater and thought to herself, “Lucy gave me this sweater.” It was worn in some spots, but Ruth didn’t mind. She loved the sweater because Lucy gave it to her.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You are my favorite friend. Okay, let me button that for you.” Lucy finished the last button and exclaimed, “Off we go! Today’s breakfast is oatmeal and cranberries! A little holiday cheer to start the day.”
Ruth joined her friends at the table. Just like on the farm, she enjoyed being busy and having people around. There were lots of activities, and there was even a small garden in the courtyard. The staff was friendly, and she loved Lucy.
“Good morning Ruth,” Harriet said.
“Good morning Harriet. Lucy said our party is today.”
“Yes, it’s at 10:00 o’clock.” Harriet was younger than Ruth and lived across the hall. She was born and raised in Phoenix and her family lived in town. Every Sunday after church, her children and grandchildren would parade through the hall to Harriet’s room for a visit. Ruth thought they looked like the march of the penguins, but she probably was a little jealous. After all, Harriet had visitors every week! The grandchildren always smiled sweetly and waved as they walked by. Ruth usually kept her door open on Sundays, so she could watch this weekly routine.
After breakfast, Ruth wheeled herself to the window overlooking the garden. Once again, she was back on the farm.
“Ruth, Ruth! Where are you child?” Mama shouted.
“I’m here, Mama. In the garden.”
Mama walked to the garden bundled up in her warm coat, wool scarf and boots. “Now, Sunshine, what are you doing in the garden? It’s freezing cold and has begun to snow.”
“I know, Mama, but I’m waiting for Santa.”
“Yes, yes, of course. Come inside child. It’s time for bed and if Santa finds you awake, he will skip our house. Hurry now, I have the fire going and it’s warm inside.”
“Okay, Mama. Is Papa home?”
“Yes, he is reading and smoking his pipe. Now, run and put your pajamas on or Santa will pass us by!” Ruth looked at Mama, then raced to the house to get ready for bed.
“Good night, Mama. Good night, Papa!”
Papa looked up from his paper, “Good night, Sunshine.”
“Miss Ruthie? Are you okay?”
Ruth was startled, “Lucy?”
“Miss Ruthie, it is time for the Holiday Party! Let’s get you over to the Rec Room for the festivities!”
Ruth looked longingly at the garden, “Okay.”
There was excitement in the air while the residents and families gathered for the Holiday Party. It really didn’t bother Ruth that her children couldn’t come. Back when Eddie was alive, they had many wonderful holiday celebrations and Ruth loved reliving them. Ruth would enjoy watching Harriet open her gifts from her family of penguins. Lucy would probably have a gift for her and she felt bad because she didn’t have anything for Lucy this year, but Lucy always says that Ruth’s hugs were the best gift of all.
At the front of the room, the Director had a box filled with other gifts to distribute. She started calling out names. “Harold, Betty, Ruth….” Ruth looked around. Was there another Ruth in the room she didn’t know about? The name was repeated a little louder, “RUTH, where’s Ruthie?”
“Go on, Sunshine,” Lucy whispered. “It’s for you.”
Ruth slowly wheeled to the front. A large package wrapped with a red bow was handed to her. Ruth’s eyes were as big as saucers, “For me?” she whispered.
“Yes, this gift is for you.”
“Who’s it from?”
“It’s from some friends in the community who want you to have a happy holiday!”
Ruth put the package in her lap. It was big and beautiful, and she was as excited as a child. Lucy said, “Go on now, open it.”
Very carefully, Ruth took the ribbon off and peeled away the wrapping paper and found a pink and white crocheted blanket. “For me?”
“Yes, Sunshine, it’s for you. Someone knew pink was your favorite color. Let’s wrap your legs with it because it’s cold today!”
Ruth placed the beautiful blanket on her lap while Lucy tucked it around her legs. Her eyes sparkled with joy. For a moment, she felt like a child back on the farm at Christmas. “Thank you,” she said to Lucy.
Lucy hugged her, “Happy Holidays, Sunshine.”
ElderTLC hosted our first shoppers today! After a year of our own shopping, organizing, fundraising, packing & unpacking, moving, labeling and so much more, it feels GREAT to give such wonderful gifts to the seniors. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers—we couldn’t do it without you.
The caring staff at Desert Terrace Healthcare Center of Phoenix have finished their Holiday Shopping! 🎁🎁🎁 We can’t wait to see the faces of their residents when they receive their handpicked gifts in December!
Please say Hello to Lee Garcia. 🎅🏼 Lee is one of the amazing caregivers (and one of the longest employed) at Paseo Village Senior Care Community. Paseo Village is one of our fortunate recipients during the holidays. We spoke with Lee about his experiences:
ElderTLC: Lee, what has your experience been with residents who have no family or friends during the holidays?
Lee: “My experience is emotional to see residents that don’t have family members to care and bring joy during the holidays. This is why your help is greatly appreciated!”
ElderTLC: How do you determine who might benefit from our gifts?
Lee: “We make the decision accordingly to best meet their needs. Some might need shoes or sweaters, etc., so we decide case by case.”
Thank you, Lee! 🎅🏼. We’ll be back soon with more from Lee & Paseo Village.
When Judy Doseck showed up for her scheduled volunteer time for ElderTLC, she expected to sort inventory or make a gift basket, as she’d done on other days. But when she raised her hand to volunteer for making gift baskets, Cathleen Hartman, President of ElderTLC, told Judy that she had a special job for her today.
“I kept thinking to myself, ‘I hope it doesn’t involve cooking!’” Judy laughs.
Judy learned that ElderTLC had received requests for “fancy outfits” as gifts for three elderly women in senior care facilities, but only two outfits were available in inventory. To fill the last request, Cathleen went to JC Penny’s sale rack and searched for something spectacular.
“I found a really pretty black sparkly jacket, but it had several snags in it,” Cathleen says. “It was originally priced at over $70, now on sale for $10.”
Cathleen asked to speak with a manager in hopes to get the price down below ElderTLC’s budget of $5 per recipient. She explained ElderTLC’s mission, and her hopes that the jacket snags could be repaired.
“And so she did it,” says Cathleen. “She sold a $70 sweater to me for $4 something! I was ecstatic.”
Back at ElderTLC’s headquarters, Cathleen pulls Judy aside to ask about the sweater.
“I’m terrible at knitting, but I’m sort of handy with a needle and thread,” Judy says. “So she showed me this cardigan and said, is there anything you can do this? And I said sure! I do this sort of thing all the time.”
Judy says she was drawn to ElderTLC because of the effort the organization puts into meeting individual recipient requests.
“It’s such a personal level,” Judy says. “If they happen to like Led Zeppelin, or want a baseball cap, ElderTLC tries pretty hard to satisfy that need.”
Over the next half an hour, Judy carefully repaired the sweater by pulling the snags to the back of the garment and tying them off. By the time she was done, the snags were completely gone from view.
“I imagine it made someone’s Christmas very sparkly,” Judy says.
2017 Update: ElderTLC gave hundreds of blankets, clothing, personal care items and more as gifts to 1,042 recipients in 12 different senior cares facilities!
ElderTLC is preparing for gift inventory and distribution! Our bins are full, and volunteers are signed up and ready to begin work next week. Thank you to everyone who signed up to volunteer, or who have donated over the past year!
When Cathleen Hartman hung up the phone with the nursing home director, she was surprised at the wave of emotions flooding through her. She had recently accepted a volunteer position as chairperson of the nursing home division of a local nonprofit in Kansas City. Her branch of the nonprofit distributed gifts to residents of senior living facilities during the holidays.
In her call with the director, Mrs. Hartman had learned that in this and many other nursing homes, nursing home staff members pool together money to purchase holiday gifts for low income elderly residents.
“[Staff members] spend their own money to buy residents gifts, because they love their residents,” Mrs. Hartman said. She added that even though nursing home staff members are often underpaid, “they go deep into their own pockets to purchase these gifts.”
The conversation became a call to action for Mrs. Hartman. “I felt even more determined to help the elderly, to make our efforts large and impactful,” she said. Over the next few years, Mrs. Hartman helped grow the nursing home division until it served twice as many residents—up to 600 seniors per year. The number of nursing homes served increased from 11 to 17.
Mrs. Hartman recalled attending one holiday party in an Alzheimer’s unit. “It was difficult at best to watch people with advanced Alzheimer’s,” she said. “But there was that brief moment, when they received a blanket, or doll… their faces lit up, and there was real joy.”
After four years as chairperson, however, Mrs. Hartman and her husband left Kansas City and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. She searched for a similar nonprofit, but ultimately found nothing equivalent. Together with a couple of friends, Mrs. Hartman started discussions with local nursing home directors and nonprofits that assist seniors. In the end, she and her friends opted to begin their own nonprofit, ElderTLC.
Mrs. Hartman hopes ElderTLC can expand rapidly to serve many nursing homes in the Phoenix area. With a fundraiser on the horizon and the application filed for nonprofit status submitted, she anticipates ElderTLC will begin distributing gifts next holiday season.
“I really think people forget how lonely the holidays can be for elderly people. A gift, however small, lets them know that they are remembered,” Mrs. Hartman said. It is only with the help the community will we be able to make ElderTLC a success.”
If you are interested in volunteering for ElderTLC, please contact Mrs. Hartman at email@example.com. In addition, monetary donations of any size are greatly appreciated!
My name is Cathleen and I moved to the Phoenix area about five years ago. In the previous state where I lived, I was the department chairperson in charge of distributing items/gifts to financially challenged residents in senior living facilities during the holiday season. My last year as chairperson, we served over 600 residents in 17 nursing homes. Our numbers grew every year as our older population continued to live longer and their needs became more. We shopped and collected items year round, sorted them, boxed them up and had them distributed to senior living facilities where their representative distributed them according to the need. My last year there, we distributed 563 sweatshirts, 408 slipper socks, 220 blankets, and 247 puzzle books.
After moving to Phoenix, I searched for a similar nonprofit, but was unable to find anything that was similar to the one I chaired.
One evening, I was expressing my desire to bring joy to lonely seniors during the holiday season like I previously chaired. I wanted the Greatest Generation to know they are not forgotten! My friends, Linda and Tracy, said they would to join me in my search and together we would figure out how to do this. After many months of talking to directors of nursing homes, nonprofit organizations focused on senior living centers, and individuals, we decided that forming our nonprofit is the best path.
This huge undertaking is mind boggling! With the help of Lodestar at ASU, I am in the process of filing Articles or Incorporation, filling out the 1023, writing an extensive narrative, creating bylaws, applying for a nonprofit status and a EIN number and I’m sure some things I don’t even know about yet! I am learning amazing things about the government process of paying attention to details and using specific wording. I am nervous that I will forget something or make a blunder that may set us back. We are excited to get through this process to move on to helping seniors which is our desire.
My expectation for ElderTLC, Inc is not the numbers that I posted above, although it wouldn’t surprise me if we were serving those numbers in a few years, but to start out with a manageable number of seniors in living facilities for 2017. We have a plan for a fundraiser in February with the hopes to raise enough money to serve the residents in 2-5 living facilities. As soon as we receive our tax exempt status, we are ready to go out and start asking for donations! Our plan is a good one. Now we need the approval from the government, money and donations from businesses and individuals, and volunteers to help with requesting donations, shopping, sorting, boxing and distributing. I know we can make this work.
Meanwhile, my desk is covered with papers, and my mind is overloaded with applications and the correct words needed to move this process along. Sigh …maybe I’ll get another cup of coffee.
President of ElderTLC