ELKHART — An anonymous gift Thursday allowed for every person in attendance at the Council on Aging Christmas party to receive a $25 gift card.
For many of the 80 people in attendance, it was their first Council on Aging Christmas party.
The Christmas party is a part of the Council on Aging of Elkhart County’s weekly Life Enrichment Activities program, which offers seniors a twice-weekly gathering space.
“It’s so important for them because if it wasn’t for this, they’d be sitting alone,” Council on Aging CEO David Toney said.
The Council on Aging’s weekly meetings are the only form of socialization for the entire week for about 70 percent of those who participate, Toney says, and the program has grown 132 percent since this time last year.
“Every year about this time, everybody here becomes family to everybody else,” Toney said.
During the holidays, the Council on Aging’s activities become even more important to seniors living alone or far from family.
“This is a hard time for a lot of these people. I hear one story after another: their families are away – different location or many miles or states away – and for whatever reason, they don’t keep in touch,” Toney said. “One lady said that she hadn’t seen her grandkids in two years and they only live about two hours away.”
The weekly program costs nearly $100,000 a year to maintain, but when the city council closed the Tolson Center, it also took the funding for the program from the Council on Aging, Toney said. The organization not been funded by the city for two years now, but thanks to generous partnerships, the not-for-profit has been able to keep the programs running.
“It’s put a drain on our finances, but these people need it,” Toney said. “We’ve been budgeting for it and trying to cut costs, but if it wasn’t for our sponsors, we’d never be able to do this.”
Every gathering has meals and treats, games and prizes. There are 104 meetings every year, two each week.
Sponsors include Brentwood Senior Living, Datena Construction, Eastlake Nursing & Rehabilitation, Eastlake Terrace, Elkhart Place, Golden Living Center, Greenleaf Health Campus, Heart to Heart Hospice, Hellenic Senior Living, Hubbard Hill Retirement Community, Martin’s Secret Santas, Paragon Home Health Care, Valley View Nursing Home and Woodland Manor.
Elkhart Council on Aging life enrichment activities are held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays at First Presbyterian Church, 200 E. Beardsley Ave.