A Nicer Season

Two programs that brighten the holidays for others

By Shanna Hogan

Many of the seniors who frequent the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center in Sun City live on a fixed income and rely on the center’s meals and food boxes to help make ends meet. Other seniors are homebound and count on the center for sustenance.

Given the situation, most of the center’s clients can’t afford to give anything other than simple gifts during the holidays. And, it may have been years since they’ve received a holiday gift, much less a wrapped gift.

Five years ago, the staff at Banner Olive Branch decided to rekindle some holiday spirit by starting a gift drive in which local employers volunteer to purchase a requested gift – not more than $30 – for a Banner Olive Branch client.

The volunteers wrap the gift, mark who it’s for and deliver it to the center where they are stored until the annual holiday luncheon. On that day, gifts are handed out, and at 11 a.m. clients tear into their gifts, many with childlike glee.

“It’s just an amazing moment when everybody opens their gift at the same time,” says Ivy Glinski, director of the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center. “Everyone is excited like they are kids again. There is such electricity in the room.”

Mary-Jane Gibson volunteers at the center and participates in its offerings including the gift drive. Her face lights up as she remembers the fuchsia cardigan sweater she received last Christmas.   

“Receiving a Christmas present is such a nice thing,” Mary-Jane says. 

For the past three years, Sun Health employees and residents along with employees of Banner Health have taken part in the drive. In 2017, more than 200 clients received a gift.

This year’s luncheon falls on Thursday, Dec. 20, and the Banner Olive Branch staff and clients are eagerly anticipating the day.   

“It’s just so much fun and we are so grateful to Banner Health and Sun Health for supporting this program,” Ivy says.

Following the luncheon, gifts and meals are also delivered to the homebound seniors.

“The holidays are really tough for a lot of people who are all alone,” Ivy says. “So, it really makes their season a lot nicer.”

Meanwhile, residents and staff at The Colonnade, a Sun Health Life Plan community in Surprise, are giving back to another charity through an entirely different luncheon.

The Colonnade’s fourth annual Holiday Charity Table Luncheon brings residents, employees and special guests together for an afternoon of fun and fundraising, complete with gourmet food, music and dining-room tables decorated to the hilt in holiday style.

“It’s a friendly competition where residents and staff form teams and try to out-decorate each other,” says Paula Sikes, Life Enrichment manager at The Colonnade. Before lunch, guests view the tables and vote for their favorite.

Proceeds from the luncheon are donated to a local charity. Past recipients have included Will’s Hope, a charity for medically fragile children, Soldiers Best Friend, which provides veterans living with PTSD or traumatic brain injury with service or companion dogs, and an adopt-a-family program organized by the Surprise Police Department. This year, proceeds will go to the Surprise Police – Domestic Victims Unit to benefit victims of domestic abuse.

Learn more about Sun Health Senior Living’s three Life Plan communities — 623-236-3767 or sunhealthseniorliving.org

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