Nursing Home Residents Get to Shop at Volunteer "Store" for Christmas Gifts

The residents of one nursing home this year are going Christmas shopping in wheelchairs, on walkers, and with canes. They didn’t even have to leave the nursing home – just get on the elevator and go down to the activity room. There were hundreds of free gifts to choose from – for their families and themselves.

“This is wonderful,” said one 69-year-old resident, coming away with two full shopping bags. Toy cars, building blocks, books for nieces and nephews. “Next year, I also want to help the other residents shop.”

The holiday spirit was in abundance last Wednesday at the nursing home, as two woman brought their volunteer program, Gift-Ability, to the nursing home for the fourth year.

Nearly 150 residents got to pick out gifts to be wrapped, labeled and delivered to their rooms. Over the next few weeks, as relatives and friends visit with gifts, the residents will have presents to give back.

The idea was started by a woman who use to shop for her father, a resident at the home. He always said, “I didn’t pick it out. It’s not the same if you don’t pick it out yourself. ” He had always been the family shopper.

“I saw how that bothered him and how badly other residents felt when visitors came in at the holidays and gave them things – and they didn’t have anything to give back,” the man's daughter says.

After her father died in 2005, she told the nursing home director, “We would like to bring in a little store at Christmastime and set it up in the bingo room. The residents can come down and pick out gifts for others. The gifts will be free, and we will interview them beforehand to have a selection of things they might like.”

The program has grown each year since 2006. Six volunteers the first year are now 15 to 20; nearly all the residents take part.  The volunteers have held yard sales and a pizza party with line dancing to raise money for the gifts. They start shopping the sales Dec. 26 for the following year. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.