Berrien Community Foundation seeking volunteers for Senior Care Kit project

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, November 10, 2021

BERRIEN COUNTY — A local organization is gearing up for its annual holiday giving event, and it needs the public’s help.

The Berrien Community Foundation is looking for volunteers for its annual Senior Care Kit project.

Since 2016, BCF has sent care packages to home-bound seniors in Berrien County communities who could use extra help.

The kits — sponsored by Honor Credit Union, The DeGroot Family Foundation and the Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation — consist of basic care items like toothpaste and lotion, safety items like flashlights, first aid kits, nightlights, hand sanitizer and non-slip socks as well as items like puzzle books and candy.

According to data provided by the BCF, one in 10 seniors in Berrien County are living at or below the poverty line. When factoring in seniors who have to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, that number jumps to 1 in 7.

“A number of low-income seniors have gone without a Christmas present for years,” said BCF Special Projects Coordinator Maureen Bradford. “A large portion live at or below the poverty level and are often forced to choose between buying toothpaste and medication. The items in these kits are things a lot of low-income seniors don’t pick up because they can’t. These kits help provide them with the necessities of life.”

Senior Care Kit volunteers will pick up the supplies at the BCF office, 2900 S. State St. No. 2E, St. Joseph, on Giving Tuesday [Nov. 30], assemble the kit, write a note to the senior and return the wrapped care kits by Monday, Dec. 6.

Kits will then be delivered by Area Agency on Aging in St. Joseph and Meals on Wheels of Southwestern Michigan.

While accompanying a Meals on Wheels volunteer on a Senior Care Kit delivery a few years ago, Bradford witnessed firsthand the impact people’s generosity can have on the community.

“I talked to a woman who was bedridden in an apartment,” she said. “When she opened the package, it was like Christmas for her. There was a box of Kleenex, deodorant, shampoo, a toothbrush and a handwritten note and she kept saying that she was so spoiled to get all of this. That is what makes me motivated to keep this program going. We are making a difference in their lives and giving them a merrier Christmas.”

Before the onset of the pandemic, volunteers would get together during the day and assemble kits together. Since then, volunteers pick their kits up to assemble them in their homes.

“There is such a great need,” said BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “We have finished updating the kits and have added some safety items. We’re doing our best to make lives better for seniors in the community.”

Since 1952, the BCF has helped people create legacies by developing philanthropic funds and endowments focused on the services or agencies they feel are worthwhile.

The organization produced more than 1,000 kits in 2020. Cripps-Downey and Bradford remain optimistic that the event will be a success for all involved.

“This is a great volunteer opportunity because you can get entire families involved,” Cripps-Downey said. “It’s a great way for families to give back and brighten the lives of seniors in Berrien County.”

“We’re letting seniors know they’re not forgotten and that they’re being thought of and remembered,” Bradford said. “With some of these individuals, their volunteer may be the only person they have contact with all day. We don’t want anyone to feel alone.”

Readers interested in volunteering can do so at berriencommunity.org. Hover over the “News/Events” drop-down tab and click the “Senior Care Kit Volunteer” link.