Members of the University of Nevada, Reno student group National Society for Leadership and Success played Santa for the 51 senior citizens at the Reno Veterans Administration Community Living Center on Dec. 17. The gifts the students presented at the center's holiday party were part of the "Be a Santa to a Senior" program.
"The students wanted to do a community project for the holidays, one that would allow for a social event so they could get to know each other within the club," the club's faculty co-advisor Marlene Rebori said, with agreement from co-advisor Margaret Ferrara.
"Be a Santa to a Senior" collects gifts requested by seniors at various senior centers across the United States. The program is sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care, which coordinates with groups to gather wish lists from seniors. People "adopt" seniors by purchasing items on the lists for the seniors.
"We contacted Sandi TenBoer, the regional coordinator for the program and director of community relations and marketing at Home Instead in Reno, and she said the 51 seniors at the Veterans Affairs Community Living Center in Reno had not been adopted yet," Rebori said. "It matched up perfectly, as we had 51 students signed up for the project."
This spring, the society will begin requiring five hours of community-service from each of its 280 members. For the students participating in the "Be a Santa to a Senior program," buying gifts and attending a wrapping party counted for three of those hours. On Dec. 17, students surpassed the five service-hour requirement by delivering their gifts to the senior veterans personally and hanging out during the center's holiday celebration.
"This way, the students got to meet the seniors," Rebori said. "It made the gift-giving more personal, and the students were able to hear stories from the seniors, as well as share their own. It was a great example of community service - it is more than buying something, but connecting with the person as well." "
Club board member Samantha Lilla agreed.
"Spending a day with veterans is remarkable because they open up so much about who they are, their life and their experiences in war," Lilla said. "All they want is to just have someone listen to them and visit. It was great to see the smiles on their faces and surprised looks when I stopped by each of their rooms and said that I had a Christmas present and blanket for them."
For Lilla, giving gifts to the senior veterans was more than she could express in words.
"To be that special person in their life for a day, I have no words to describe the feeling but I am so proud of the National Society of Leadership and Success at the University and the volunteers to know that we made their Christmas better."
The focus of the National Society for Leadership and Success is to build leadership skills among the student members. For more information about the society, visit the club's website. For more information about "Be a Santa to a Senior," visit the event website.