Molalla area residents grant seniors' Christmas wishes
Molalla Manor Care Center's Christmas wish list program proves the Molalla area isn't lacking in generosity.
The program, founded and directed by the center's activities director Bette Hester, allows at least 40 senior living residents to submit a wish list of up to three gifts for Christmas. Naomi Farmer, of Cowgirls Trading Company, then heads up the collecting of the gifts by posting the wishes as numbers on Facebook for people in the community and surrounding areas to fulfill.
"There are people out there that still want to give. And it's remarkable," Hester said. "In this day and age, so many are worried about 'what do I get?'…It's a nice lesson to learn every year."
Hester founded the program 29 years ago after receiving jarring information from her then boss.
"I was devastated when I first started, and my boss told me, she says, 'Well you have to go to the residents and find out if you can use their money to buy them a gift,' " Hester said. "And that was the last time I did that. No, I am not going to do that again. That was horrible."
So she founded the Care Center's Christmas wish list program, and through the community's generosity she even started a fund that she calls the Christmas fund.
"It's used all year," Hester said, "if someone needs a sweater or wants to go out to lunch and doesn't have any money or whatever. I do fundraisers all year long, and money goes into that, and you know, if somebody needs something, they can have it."
This year, when Farmer went to put up the first round of wish list numbers, nearly 40 of them, she was shocked that they were all swooped up within two hours. In fact, she has a waiting list of people ready to fulfill wishes once more become available.
"It's awesome that every year, they grab these numbers within hours. When I first started, I was really nervous," Farmer said. "It took me a little bit, like a week or two the first time I did it. The second time I did it, it was like a week. Now, it's not even 24 hours."
Farmer pointed out that the eager givers include people who have given in the past, the friends they tag on Facebook, groups of women shopping together, men and their families and more.
Along with those who grab up the wishes, others contribute items to make the event special for the center's residents. Businesses donate candy, money and other items. One family buys 50 blankets each year, and one woman makes additional blankets for residents.
Once the items are collected, Hester organizes them, saves extra things for birthdays and other events throughout the year, and then hands out the gifts at the center's Christmas party. She said the residents' reactions vary from person to person, but range from big smiles to grateful tears.
"This community and surrounding communities have been absolutely wonderful," Hester said. "They have stepped up for a number of years now. Rarely do I ever have to use the Christmas fund to buy gifts…because the community fills it.
"And you know, you don't find that just anywhere," she continued. "People are not so much about money around here as they are 'what can I do to help?' "
Though the Molalla Care Center residents receive much through the program, they also give much.
The center each year buys gifts and holds a Christmas party hosting little ones from the Head Start preschool program for children who are from low-income families, are experiencing
houselessness or are in foster care.
"This generation wants to give," Hester said. "They don't want to just receive."