LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Mary Jo Spencer and Rick Abbatiello have embraced this season of giving by delivering presents seniors spending this Christmas alone.
Spencer and Abbatiello are part of a program called Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) and they brought us along for a very special delivery.
"This is what Christmas is all about," Spencer told FOX 13. "It's about spending time with loved ones and new friends. It brings joy and brings back that human connection."
The visit certainly brightened Milt Haverty's day. He is going to be 83 next month.
"Not much happens when you're my age,” said Haverty. "So when it does, it really comes as a surprise, like today."
Even before this visit, Haverty already had a very nice haul, thanks to his kids. They got him what he considers a newfangled phone, which he was struggling to figure out when we were there.
He also got a new watch.
Spencer and Abbatiello brought Haverty two types of cologne and a sharp new sweater, which is what he was hoping for.
"This is fun," he said as his face lit up.
Haverty lives alone, but he is not.
"The fastest growing population in the US is 70 and over," said VISTE spokeswoman Ashley Miller.
Not too many years ago, VISTE's clients numbered in the hundreds. The list is now 4,200 names long. About 600 of them added just this year alone.
That means VISTE and other agencies that help older folks will need more food, volunteers, and donations to keep pace with a population that is growing faster than ever before.