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Thursday, August 25, 2022

SMAR Provides Holiday Cheer for Seniors

Holiday Cheer
SMAR Community Relations members meet with some of the senior center representatives to distribute gifts. From left are Kait Brown, Cassidy Johnson, Allyson Krenke, Dawn Orbits, David Morgan, Linda Gregory, Esmerelda Cline, Courtney Curtis, Patrick Hilwig, Mindy Sowell, David Reifsnyder, Kelly Raley, Annette Matthews, Danielle LeDoux, Connie Gunn, Taylor Hines, and Tanya Redding.

After months of preparation, the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors packed up hundreds of gifts that were collected as part of its Senior Santa program and went off to spread some holiday cheer to local senior citizens.

Now entering its seventh year, the SMAR Senior Santa program was designed to collect Christmas presents for people living locally in nursing homes and assisted living facilities who may not see their family members over the holiday season. The gifts were collected by the SMAR Cares Foundation, a nonprofit that serves as the charitable giving arm of SMAR.

This year, SMAR Cares was tasked with collecting gifts for 487 seniors, over two and a half times more than they collected in 2020. The gift requests ranged from fuzzy socks and candy to printers and even computers. But that was still no problem for the Realtors.

Within three weeks, SMAR Cares had gotten all 487 seniors adopted. The foundation estimates that roughly 40% of adoptions that were made this year were made by community members not affiliated with SMAR.

“We were in awe of the community support for this year’s program,” SMAR Cares Director Connie Gunn said. “Many local businesses helped make this happen with monetary donations, with some adopting over 10 seniors themselves and having employees go out and shop for them. We even had one active-duty military member up at Andrews Air Force base who heard about our program on Facebook and got her whole unit to participate with donations. It really has been amazing to see.”

In addition to the gifts, several other people made monetary donations which allowed SMAR to increase the number of gifts distributed. Well over 550 gift bags were collected, at an estimated value of $24,910.

“This was a massive success for our organization, but an even greater success for Southern Maryland,” said Tanya Redding, SMAR past president and the chairwoman of SMAR Cares. “Our members, affiliates, and even community members with no ties to our organization stepped up to help make this a great Christmas for all these seniors. We exceeded our goals and set another record for us to break next year.”

Barbara Burton, activity director for The Hermitage at Solomons, is excited to see her car packed with gifts for residents at her facility.

The facilities that gifts were collected for included Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, St. Mary’s Nursing Center, Chesapeake Shores, Solomons Nursing Home, Calvert County Nursing Home, Sage Point, Fenwick Landing, Genesis Waldorf, Complete Care at La Plata, Assisted Living at Hawkins Gate, The Hermitage at Solomons, and the Charleston Senior Community.

SMAR Cares also collected over 150 coats and roughly 1,200 pounds of nonperishable food items for food banks and other various organizations in Southern Maryland. Next on the schedule, the foundation will host a casino night fundraiser in March 2022 that will benefit SMAR Cares.

“SMAR members give back to the communities they serve professionally and in which they live,” SMAR President Gregg G. Kantak said. “From annual food drives to coat drives to the immensely successful Senior Santa, SMAR members serve as a shining example of the power of giving and sharing.”

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