Christmas is right around the corner, and staff at DeKalb County Council on Aging made it their goal to give seniors in DeKalb who are members of the seven senior Centers a gift.

All senior centers in DeKalb County have been closed to the public since March when the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Alabama with only a handful of workers allowed in the building.

More than 600 seniors who once congregated at their local senior center to enjoy activities and socialize with their peers have now been at home due to the pandemic.

COA Activities Coordinator Joyce Rabinowitz said the idea of gift bags first came up as she and COA Director Emily McCamy discussed the upcoming holidays.

“I said, ‘Boy, it would be nice to make gift bags for them,’ and Emily said some of the seniors had asked for some things they needed,” said Rabinowitz.

After receiving the okay to move forward at the end of November, she began contacting Health Fair participants and businesses in the area for sponsorships or donations.

Working with a short span of three weeks, Rabinowitz and the staff got to work.

“It’s been amazing. I actually got enough coupons to put in each gift bag for them to go by and get a hot meal,” Rabinowitz said. “Some of the sponsors brought things by the COA and I went out to pick up some of the donations.”

Some of the items include coloring books and color pencils, food gift cards, manicure sets, masks, calendars, dishcloths, notepads, ink pens and gloves.

“One sponsor gave me some real nice pill organizers for morning and night and I thought that was really nice because that’s something they can use,” said Rabinowitz. “I had a lady that donated three cases of socks, colorful, wild and cute socks.”

She said the majority of these items are things seniors may not have the money to buy or something they wouldn’t buy for themselves.

“We are doing a bag for each client at each of the seven senior centers and that’s about 668 gift bags,” Rabinowitz said. “I am excited about it. I didn’t think I could get that many people to donate in such a short time.”

Thirty-seven organizations and individuals donated towards this Christmas project for county seniors.

“I thank God for each one of the sponsors. I appreciate the help in such a short amount of time,” said Rabinowitz. “You have made 668 seniors Christmas a little happier.”

She said seniors will receive gift bags or fruit baskets with treats.

Fort Payne Senior Center Manager Jean Reed, whose service area includes Fort Payne, Valley Head and Mentone, has also been busy with her annual Christmas project providing Christmas fruit baskets for 125-140 seniors.

“They all get some fruit, candy and a card. Hopefully, it brings a little cheer to them,” said Reed. “My helpers Lean King, Teresa Pruitt and Barbara Hand help me and have been with me ever since I started.”

Reed took a moment to thank the Fort Payne Kiwanis Club, a local preacher and Mary Katherine Harris, who volunteer every week to deliver meals to Fort Payne seniors.

“None of my seniors in Fort Payne have missed a meal since COVID-19 started because we’ve had people who provide ‘angel meals,’” she said.

These contributors paid for senior meals, which staff and volunteers go pick up and deliver to seniors ensuring they don’t miss a meal.

“They’ve all gotten a meal just as if we were open,” said Reed.

Rabinowitz said one of Reed’s ‘angle meal’ contributors has offered to provide a Christmas meal for Fort Payne seniors this year.

The seniors’ gift bags and fruit baskets will be delivered before Christmas Eve.

With seven senior centers throughout DeKalb County and three distribution centers, Rabinowitz credits the staff at all the centers for working together to serve the seniors of DeKalb County.

For regular updates, follow the DeKalb County Transportation and Council on Aging on Facebook @DeKalbCoA.

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