Did you know, according to AARP, that 28 percent of people 65 or older live alone? Each year, these seniors have fewer family members and friends to provide them company and care, which often leads to social isolation.

The holidays can be especially hard for those who are living independently and may feel lonely.

That’s why the Home Instead Senior Care office serving south Sarasota County is inviting the community to help provide gifts and holiday cheer to seniors who may be isolated through its Be a Santa to a Senior program.

This is the program’s seventh year in the area. Last year more than 450 local seniors received 3,000 gifts.

“Be a Santa to a Senior helps bring comfort and a smile to many seniors,” said Mike Levine, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Venice. “It shows them that people care about them and see them as an important part of the community. Social isolation is a concern among seniors and the holidays often intensify feelings of distance and loneliness. When we deliver the gifts and spend some time with them, it makes a big difference.”

Be a Santa to a Senior is a true community program, getting generous support from south Sarasota County businesses, nonprofit organizations, retailers, volunteers and community members. The local Home Instead Senior Care office has partnered with these groups to help with gift collection and distribution.

It’s easy to help out. Go to one of the participating locations listed and look for the “Be a Santa to a Senior” tree on display through Dec. 15. Each tree will be decorated with ornaments featuring seniors’ first names and their desired gifts. Holiday shoppers can choose an ornament, buy the requested gift and return it to the store with the ornament attached. No wrapping is needed — community volunteers and program partners will wrap and deliver the gifts to local seniors in time for the holidays.

“We’re always excited to see how much Be a Santa to a Senior boosts seniors’ spirits during the holiday season,” said Levine. “And we are grateful to be a part of a community that comes together to make this happen.”

Be a Santa to a Senior trees can be found at the following locations:

• Bealls Outlet, 515 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice;

• Bealls Outlet, 4321 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice;

• Bealls Outlet, 425 S. Indiana Avenue, Englewood;

• Bealls Outlet, 18529 Tamiami Trail, North Port;

• Moe’s Southwest Grill, 5668 Tuscola Blvd., North Port.

For more information, visit: BeaSantatoaSenior.com or call 941-375-8400.

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