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!