Delivering Christmas cheer to senior citizens

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 20, 2015

 Daniel Boris, appearing as Santa Claus, holds the door open for Ralph Schwarz during the program to help seniors.

Daniel Boris, appearing as Santa Claus, holds the door open for Ralph Schwarz during the program to help seniors.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — For the past five years, the Shelby Township Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 142, the Shelby Township Senior Center and local businesses have partnered together to bring Christmas baskets to seniors in need.

Retired dispatcher Bonnie Bowman started the initiative and is back on board this year after overcoming some health complications. After loading up a bus full of presents, volunteers — along with Santa Claus — personally delivered the goods Dec. 16.

Thanks to a list provided by the Shelby Township Senior Center, helpers were able to bring gifts to 18 senior citizens in the community.

“The seniors that were chosen this year all have a significant need,” Shelby Township Senior Center Director Amy Drake said. “They all come from a background of very low funds and income, or a combination with significant medical issues.”

Drake praised the program and expressed her gratitude to those willing to volunteer their time and money to provide the community’s seniors with Christmas baskets.

The baskets included fun holiday gifts; things they would not be able to purchase on their own; Meijer gift cards for paying utility bills; and useful items, such as blankets and toilet paper.

“They are fantastic people with great hearts — people who are having a hard time,” Drake said. “They’re so kind and so generous. Accepting help of any kind is difficult, but when we do things like this, they get such big smiles on their faces.”

Carl Scheppman, owner of Esplendido Mexican Cuisine and an associate member of the FOP, has been providing a hot meal and a gift card to seniors in the program since day one.

“My wife and I are strong supporters (of the program),” Scheppman said. “It’s very, very heartfelt. It’s a really cool program, and I’m super proud to be a part of it. It’s also a good plug for the police because of all the bad publicity they seem to get nowadays.”

He said this year’s event went seamlessly, and that through generous donations, the volunteers were able to “over-gift” everybody.

“Santa makes the whole thing,” Scheppman said. “He’s just a character, this guy. It’s fun because of the way he interacts with some of these people.”

Daniel Boris, the bearded FOP associate member who dons the red suit, said the many hugs and grateful smiles he received were the best gift he could get.

“Sometimes the seniors can be forgotten a bit (around the holidays),” Drake said. “When Bonnie came to me with the idea five years ago, I said, ‘Absolutely.’ It’s a good story.”

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