Community reaches out to help area seniors

A pair of slippers, a lap blanket, a pair of socks or a stack of kindling — these were the simple gift requests of local homebound seniors this holiday season.

"One of our clients asked for a deodorant stick," said Jane Whaley, development director of Food & Friends, the Meals on Wheels and Senior Nutrition Program for Jackson and Josephine counties.

Whaley and volunteers tagged the seniors' holiday wishes on five "giving trees," then distributed them to area businesses. Employees and community members select a wish, buy the gift, wrap it and return it to the tree with the identifying tag, she said.

Kristy Gallon, manager of Lock N Key Mini Storage on Coker Butte Road in Medford said the tags from the giving tree placed at her business were "stripped within a day and a half."

Seniors' requests for gloves, scarves, sweatshirts and a set of hot rollers were written on the tags on Gallon's tree.

One gentleman, a customer at the mini storage, took five tags and brought back carefully wrapped gifts, she said.

Gallon and her mother also took multiple tags. They wanted to make sure no senior went without a present to open this year, she said.

"There's so much need, especially during Christmas," Gallon said. "I think the holidays are not just about family; it's about the whole community coming together as family."

Oregon Advanced Imaging, Wynwood Retirement Community, the dental office of Dr. Eric Rollem, the optometrist office of Dr. George K. Lam, and Southern Oregon Subaru also sponsored giving trees, Whaley said.

Subaru partnered with Food & Friends for the corporation's national "Share the Love" campaign, said Greg Sorenson, owner of Southern Oregon Subaru. The dealership offered $25 donations to Food & Friends for each test drive conducted this month, and donated $250 to Meals on Wheels from a car sale, he said.

"We always try to give back locally," Sorenson said.

Dot Ohlhausen works in the accounting office at the Subaru dealership. There were several requests for slippers and chocolate on their tree, she said.

"But one lady was requesting food, and another wanted fire wood," Ohlhausen said. "I think a lot of times the older people get overlooked. I like the idea they can put in their wish and get a little something."

Whaley and her volunteers deliver between 700 and 800 meals per day in the Rogue Valley. This week they are delivering the giving tree gifts along with the food, she added.

"We will be brightening spirits as well as nourishing souls," Whaley said. "For many, just having any present to open on Christmas is more they have come to expect."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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