By Beth Lawrence
The Jackson County Department on Aging distributes yearly Christmas boxes to ensure that local seniors are not overlooked during the holidays, but this year COVID-19 may hamper the effort.
Director Eddie Wells is worried that the pandemic will adversely affect donations of time, money and items to fill milk boxes.
“It’s a program for our seniors in Jackson County who don’t have a lot of family and don’t have much to look forward to for Christmas,” Wells said. “The need is still there for this year. I’m a little concerned with the pandemic that we may get a little less donations. My concern is there are less people going out and doing the shopping, so our donations are down.”
Though donations are down, the number of elderly residents in need is not.
The program generally reaches 700 Jackson seniors.
Each year the DOA and volunteers pack milk boxes with items seniors might want or need to make their holidays a little brighter.
The boxes include nonperishable food such as vegetables, soups and canned meats, snacks, paper products, light bulbs and personal care items such as lotion, shampoo, soap or lip balm.
Wells asks that donors check expiration dates to make sure food is not close to expiring and purchase pop-top cans to assist seniors with dexterity issues.
Additionally, the organization tries to include items seniors might look forward to receiving such as crossword puzzles or smaller jigsaw puzzles, games, lap blankets, socks, hats and scarves, or flashlights and batteries.
“Food is our first priority; the rest of it is things that we think they can use,” Wells said. “But the big part about it is someone coming by and thinking of them over the holidays and coming to visit them for a second.”
Each box is wrapped and filled then distributed to residents who are homebound, or alone for the holidays.
Anyone who wishes can also wrap and fill boxes themselves and drop them by the department or request pickup.
Anyone who would like to help but cannot purchase items or spend the day packing boxes can pick up milk boxes from grocery stores, wrap them and bring them to the office. Doing this will save the agency time, Wells said.
Other items Wells suggests including are holiday cards or notes which might brighten an elder’s day.
The department also needs volunteers to fill and deliver boxes.
The deadline for donations is Nov. 20, but it will be extended if necessary.
Though he is concerned, Wells has faith in the people of Jackson County.
“Everything always comes in,” he said. “I tell you, Jackson County always supports everything. Any kind of need out there, they always come through and deliver.”
The agency will begin distributing boxes after Thanksgiving and continue until the week before Christmas.
This year boxes will be left at the door. Any interaction will take place outside to limit the spread of COVID-19.
These boxes meet more than physical needs. They are also a form of emotional support.
“When we think about Christmas or the holidays, we think about spending it with family,” Wells said. “There (are) elderly in our community who don’t have family support, or they’re homebound. Those are a lot of the seniors that we’re serving, so it’s nice to have some kind of Christmas cheer that we can give them to show we care and make them feel good.”
The Jackson County Department on Aging is located at 100 County Services Park. For information, contact Karen Davis at 586-5494.