ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Sunday officially marked three weeks from Christmas, and shopping in stores is estimated to be at its peak level for the year.
Many people do not have the resources to buy presents for friends and families, and still others, mainly in older populations, cannot ask for help.
Two years ago, Julie Foster started a project to help such people.
“Nursing homes do a great job taking care of our elderly and have great activities for them throughout the year,” she said.
Foster is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Liberal Area Coalition for Families, and she said coalition leaders felt they could help support nursing homes and their residents.
“Sadly, as we get older, we tend not to make time for our seniors,” she said. “Growing up, I spent much time with my grandparents, and those are some of my best memories from my childhood.”
Foster’s grandfather has now passed, and despite being in her late 80s in fragile health, her grandmother is still blessed to have many people taking care of her.
“Some of the seniors do not have that,” she said. “They’re lonely. Life gets busy for all of us. Sometimes, we are pulled in many different directions. But stepping back and giving those people who were there for you growing up even 10 minutes of your time will make their day.”
LACF, along with Xpress Wellness Urgent Care, is hosting a Silver Tree to help give gifts to seniors this year. Foster said the coalition would like to thank Xpress Wellness for their support with the project.
“We are very excited to be working with them,” she said.
Through Dec. 17, holiday shoppers can pick up a silver angel at Xpress Wellness and go shopping.
LACF also hosts an Angel Tree for local children, and Foster said the age difference is the biggest difference between that project and the Silver Tree.
“Children have their parents or guardians to advocate for them and get them signed up for holiday projects,” she said. “Seniors do not. We go to them.”
Foster said the coalition is very fortunate to have several programs in the community that help children and families, but senior residents do not have that.
“I hope they enjoy this project as much as we have,” she said.
Foster said the project likewise provides seniors with a healthy dose of holiday spirit.
“Christmas, as I always say, is my favorite holiday of them all,” she said. “Christmas is a season of giving. Liberal Area Coalition does many projects throughout the year that give back to the community, but this one is a little bit more personal and each community member can have a more individual impact with their donation. My hope is this project not only provides a senior with a gift for the season, but they see our community comes together to be there for them and they are not forgotten.”
Foster encourages families to get their children and friends to pass on the kindness she said is worth it.
In its short time, Foster said the project has received a large outpouring of support she has found truly amazing.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried happy tears in 48 hours,” she said. “It makes me happy to see others be excited ad relate to the deeper meaning of why we’re doing this.”
Xpress Wellness Area Manager Paty Gonzalez said her company wanted to get involved and give back to the community this holiday season in a positive way.
“We see many patients who need medical care daily and want to do something that would help brighten the holidays for our community,” she said. “When we reached out to United Way, we learned of the Silver Tree program and the need to serve the seniors in our community.”
With sometimes limited choices for healthcare, Gonzalez said Xpress Wellness can help bridge the gap for seniors.
“If seniors have a non-emergency condition that is severe enough to seek medical attention and they can’t get in to see their physician, Xpress Wellness Urgent Care is a great option for quality care that is close to home,” she said.
With rising costs, Gonzalez said seeking medical care can sometimes be put on the backburner for those on a fixed income who do not have insurance.
“Xpress Wellness offers low cost options that are cheaper than the emergency room so patients don’t have to choose between medical care and buying their groceries,” she said.
When seniors need quick, quality care and are not able to be seen by their doctor the same day, Gonzalez said the health care provider is a great resource in a time of need.
“Xpress Wellness Urgent Care provides care to senior patients fighting cold and flu, COVID-19, infections, allergies, fevers, painful ears, urinary tract infects and sore throats,” she said. “We also treat minor injuries like sprains and strains, minor fractures, bit and puncture wounds and lacerations. We offer onsite lab and X-ray services that make getting results faster for our patients. Our goal is to provide high quality healthcare for non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses to anyone in need.”
Silver Angels can be picked up through Dec. 17 at Xpress Wellness at 445 W. 15th Street in Liberal during regular business hours.
“Gifts will need to be dropped off at Xpress Wellness by Dec. 19,” Foster said.
For more information about the Silver Tree, call Foster at 620-391-4477, or go to the Liberal Area Coalition for Families page on Facebook.