Small gifts make a big difference for seniors during the holidays

Holidays can be hard for older people who don't have family nearby but a program in the Tampa Bay area is working to bring holiday cheer to lonely seniors.

During the holiday season, the Ybor City Center partners with Be a Santa to a Senior – an organization that provides gifts and fellowship for elderly residents who are alone during Christmastime. 

Ybor City Center activities director Bernice Young said the program means everything to the seniors.

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"It's a wonderful thing. It's very important because, at this time of the year, you want to bring joy to people," Young said. 

Kristi Campbell has been helping bring cheer to seniors for 17 years. She said elderly residents deserve to know they are appreciated. 

"It makes them know that they're loved and helps with their sense of appreciation for everything that they've done for our society throughout their life," said Campbell. "We appreciate them and we love them. And it may just make them enjoy the holiday." 

The program works similarly to the well-known Angel Tree program. Seniors' gift requests are written on paper ornaments which adorn trees placed in businesses around Tampa. 

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Customers take names off the tree, purchase the gifts and return them to the store. 

"We just give them something that they like, and they want to decorate their room with, or they want to be able to wear, or just items that they need – toiletries, blankets, socks, things like that," Campbell said. 

She said nothing makes her happier than putting smiles on the faces of seniors. Campbell and her group help 1,000 seniors each Christmas. For more information, visit