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Santa’s Seniors project delivers holiday cheer to more than 400 residents

“You made my Christmas.” That’s how one recipient of a gift box reacted to the special delivery that came with her lunch a few days before Christmas. The gift boxes contained ready to eat or easily prepared foods, cold weather necessities, bottled water, personal care items and unique cards made by local students and crafting groups, and were accompanied by a poinsettia donated by Helminiak’s Greenhouse & Landscaping. Donations were gathered primarily in the beginning of December, then sorted, packed and distributed to 419 area Meals on Wheels consumers during the week of Christmas.

“Everyone was thrilled with giving and receiving the boxes and the poinsettias,” said Marcella Englert, STEP Office of Aging Mill Hall Center coordinator.

2016 marked the second year of STEP administering the project, utilizing resources and volunteers/service members from STEP Office of Aging, AmeriCorps and Head Start. The Williamsport Sun-Gazette, The Lock Haven Express and Backyard Broadcasting all provided extensive publicity and coverage for the donation drive. The media outlets also served as donation drop-off locations, gathering a staggering collection of individual donations to help fill the boxes.

The boxes themselves were donated by Miller Brothers Auto Sales, and also were filled with contributions from local businesses and groups. Donors of goods, gift cards and cash included: Frito-Lay, Kellogg, Elmcroft of Loyalsock, Ralston United Methodist Church, Reese’s Print Shop, Weis Markets (various locations in Lycoming and Clinton counties), ManorCare, Phoenix Physical Therapy, Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchek, First Quality, Muncy Inmate Organization (PA Department of Corrections, SCI Muncy), Xi Epsilon Sigma, Brigandi Cleghorn & Associates, Clinton County Dental Clinic, Susque-View Nursing & Rehabilitation, Novitas Solutions, Inc., the employees of Restless Oaks restaurant, and Celtic Home Health & Hospice. Countless individual donations were delivered to STEP and to the media outlet offices. Dunkin Donuts (Newberry), Weis Markets, Giant Food Stores, and Little Caesars contributed refreshments for the many volunteers who sorted the donations and packed them into gift boxes.

To add a unique touch to the gift boxes, a craft group from STEP’s Clinton County Community Center made note cards, students from STEP Head Start classrooms and Dickey Elementary created hundreds of holiday cards for the recipients and seniors from the Mill Hall Senior Center provided handmade towels.

The donations were sorted and the boxes packed by volunteers from STEP’s Office of Aging programs, service members from STEP AmeriCorps and community volunteers. The Pennsylvania State Police delivered boxes in Montoursville and Renovo. STEP’s Meals on Wheels volunteers delivered boxes on their routes throughout Lycoming and Clinton counties.

While the boxes are a once-a-year occasion, the home-delivered meals program provides regular social contact along with good nutrition for those unable to leave their houses or prepare meals without assistance throughout the year.

“It’s so nice because they get the opportunity to take their time and really get to know the Meals on Wheels recipients — they become like family,” said BethLynn Lowell, who volunteered to help with the extra delivery needs of the project in Clinton County.