I was in Walmart and saw a rack of men's shirts for $3.00. I walked over and joined a man who was also looking at them. I greeted him and asked, "Do you have all the shirts you would like? Because I'll probably buy the rest. Feel free to take as many as you want."
He replied, "I have two and that's plenty," and asked me why I was buying the shirts. I gave him my usual ElderTLC "elevator pitch" which I give over and over knowing the typical response is "Good for you," or "Bless your heart."
But this time was different. This kind man reached into his pocket and gave me $20, and said, "Let me help you buy the shirts." I was speechless and felt myself getting emotional.
I choked out, "I can't tell you how much this means to me. This is so kind of you. May I have your name and address so we can send you a receipt?"
He replied by reaching into his pocket and giving me another $20. "No, I just like what you are doing and want to help. I don't need a receipt."
I pulled myself together and said, "Let me tell you a little bit more about our nonprofit so you understand how your donation will be used." I quickly told him about how ElderTLC was an all-volunteer organization, that we shop year-round for clearance sales, our growth of 450% since 2016, and that we gave away over 4700 gifts in 2020.
When I finished, he told me that he has been very fortunate in his life and he likes to share his fortune with others. He then pulled out a $100 bill and handed it to me, "Please take this and continue your good works." At this point, I tried to give him back his original $40 donation thinking that he meant to give me $100 total. He smiled, "Keep it all," and he turned to continue his shopping.
To the kind Gentleman at Walmart,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your donation was meaningful in so many ways. Not only because you will provide gifts to our seniors, but your kindness will also bring joy to our volunteers working so hard trying to acquire donations and inventory for our 2021 Holiday Shop. You lifted our spirits during a difficult year and we are so appreciative.
"My sorority sister, Mary Anne Lachenmaier and I (Joanne Mier) were lucky enough to meet Cathleen Hartman in the fall of 2019 and learn all about ElderTLC. In June of 2020 we contacted Cathleen to see if our Phoenix Delta Gamma Alumnae chapter members could provide art supplies for ElderTLC’s Holiday Shop. Our sisters gave generously, enough to fill 2 cars with loads of art supplies. While delivering these items we let Cathleen know we’d be happy to help if she needed more volunteers to complete orders. As it turned out between the 2 of us, we gave ElderTLC 33 hours. It was fun to meet other volunteers, get to know the founders of ElderTLC and learn even more about their mission. We found the time spent gathering specific gifts, wrapping them, then packing in boxes for the receiving centers was very heartwarming. This is such a worthwhile organization. Hopefully Delta Gamma can participate again for 2021!"
"As it has been for all of us in our personal lives, 2020 was a year like no other for ElderTLC. I recall one of the options considered this summer was to not deliver gifts this year, but to focus on preparing for a more “typical” 2021. While I understood this had to be considered, I also knew none of us close to this important effort could even imagine not forging ahead and figuring out how to deliver on our mission in a safe way. And that we did! 4694 gifts, 73 facilities, countless boxes, bows and Butterfingers... While the delivery of the gifts was different this year, the gratitude on the part of the facilities was more evident than ever. The stories we heard were everything we’ve heard on the news and more. Every time someone picked up their boxes we were reminded why we do what we do. And as David from Maryland Gardens said as he pumped his arms in the air, “ElderTLC rocks!”.
-- Anne Bettis
"I have helped with ElderTLC for three years now. It’s been very rewarding to play a small part in brightening the holidays for the elderly, and sometimes forgotten in care homes. This organization is unique in that each gift is chosen specifically for each individual. It’s like you are a personal shopper, finding something special for each person in need. The employees from each care home that I have come into contact with express gratitude and delight from their residents upon receiving these personally chosen gifts."
-- Kari Blakley
"This was my 4th year at ElderTLC and I love this organization. Cathleen, Linda and Tracy have earned a straight shot to heaven. I was a tennis teammate of Cathleen's when ElderTLC was in its infancy, and was intrigued by the idea of giving gifts to seniors in need. Once I did my first day of volunteering I was hooked. The camaraderie of the volunteers, the warm fuzzy feeling you get of helping those in need and the feedback of the recipients makes this non-profit a priority in my Fall volunteer time. Although COVID threw us a curve this year, we were still able to pull this out with the help of our fearless leaders. Hats off and good tidings to all that helped this year and in years past. CHRISTmas is the reason for the season."
-- Lori Krimbill
"Moving to Arizona from Vermont a few years ago was exciting for us. After settling in, I soon realized that without small children or pets, meeting people would not be as easy. A neighbor, Sue, suggested I join her for a day to Volunteer with a charity that sounded very intriguing. Thanks to Sue, I’ve not only found a rewarding and fun way to give back to the community, but I have met some of the nicest friends!
I could immediately tell that ElderTLC was different than others I have experienced, where sometimes you felt like it was just a large business, doing the best that they could, but lacking connection. Cathleen, Linda & Tracy could not be more giving, generous or warm people. Honestly. Everyone who volunteers for ElderTLC relays these qualities about them! And, the service they provide for the less-fortunate in senior living facilities in Arizona is beyond anything I’ve come across before. One of the first things Cathleen explained to me was her philosophy for volunteering, which won me over immediately. That is, everyone has a hobby or a gift. They like to invite people to share those gifts within ElderTLC. For example, I love photography, and sharing my photos on Instagram. Cathleen right away asked if I would like to take photos for ElderTLC and post them on Instagram/Facebook. I was so excited! This was a perfect fit for me (and, I guess, for them!). And over the past few years, it’s become so evident that this philosophy works beautifully at ElderTLC. We have volunteers who are interested in marketing, organizing, decorating, socializing, shopping (seriously!), event planning, styling, sewing, crafting, jewelry making, baking—you name it—your hobby or gift is appreciated at ElderTLC!
Most important of all for me, is the gift of giving that ElderTLC provides. I am fortunate enough to also assist the facilities in their holiday shopping when they visit us. The stories I hear of their less fortunate residents, the love and gratitude they convey about ElderTLC, stays with me throughout the year. I even write down a lot of these stories, and tell family and friends about them. Charlie, a homeless man who had just been admitted to a Mesa facility, had a size 15 foot, so he had torn open his “shoes” at the toes so he could walk in them. We were able to give him a SIZE 15 pair of fluffy slipper/shoes for the Holidays! (*goosebumps*). Bill had been forced to leave behind his beloved and most important possession, a Golden Retriever, when he was placed in a senior living facility. We were able to provide a large stuffed animal Golden Retriever to make his holiday special (can you imagine his face when he opened THAT gift?). "
There are so many more heartwarming stories, and so many more reasons that I am grateful to have found ElderTLC. ~Lisa
I’m so happy that I found out about volunteer opportunities with ElderTLC in 2019. It has been such a rewarding experience whether creating gifts or setting up/taking down the shop. I especially loved shopping with nursing facility representatives at the shop. It was a joy to see their delight when we found the perfect gift for each of their residents. When one of the people I was helping came to tears because she was so happy with the gifts she would be able to present her residents, I teared up a little myself! It was also fun to work alongside the other enthusiastic volunteers who were clearly filled with the spirit of giving and making a difference for those less fortunate. ElderTLC does a great job helping our seniors in need and I’m proud to be part of their volunteer community.
My husband and I were delighted to help out with an ElderTLC shopping morning. The minute we showed up we were welcomed and put to work. There were several jobs, all of which were very rewarding. I was able to help two wonderful young women shop for over 125 residents at their facility. It was heartwarming to see how they knew their clients and could express their needs and give us ideas. I worked with another volunteer to give suggestions and label the gifts. Not only did I feel helpful I was also rewarded by their expressions of gratitude. As I shopped, my husband was at the inventory and packing station. He was also quite busy, getting all the gifts organized and ready for transport back to the senior living facility.
After we finished shopping, another volunteer and I checked in several boxes of donated clothing. We organized the items by sizes and inventoried them. I was so impressed by how efficient this whole operation is run. When I volunteer, I want to be put to work! Cathleen honored our time and made sure we had jobs that made a difference. We hope to help out again next year.
This was a fun and worthwhile experience. My heart is warmed as I think about the difference ElderTLC is making in the lives so many elder folks. Thank you!
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 only the 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.