Holiday Gift Bags Assembly
Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Written by Sue Murray, Volunteer Highlight Writer

The holiday season can be quiet and lonely for many people. While many of us spends time with friends or families, sharing gifts and laughter, many of the older adults in the Beach Cities may be alone, with no gifts to open.

For this reason, the South Bay Auxiliary volunteer group, which was part of South Bay Hospital, started the Holiday Gift Bag program for the older adults in the Care Management program in 1998.

When the South Bay Auxiliary merged with Beach Cities Health District (BCHD), the annual holiday gift bag program survived and 25 years later, it still is an annual tradition t for many people in our community.

This year, several new gifts including an aluminum water bottle and soft woolly socks were added to each holiday gift bag along with the regular assortment of postage stamps, hand lotion and batteries. While the bags are all the same, food support in the form of grocery gift cards is tailored to the specific needs of each recipient.

As Care Manager, Sherry Lindemann explains, “We try to add exciting new gifts each year but always include the most popular items which are next year’s calendars and stamps.”

The Holiday Gift Bag program starts in mid-October when the BCHD team reaches out to associations and organizations across the Beach Cities asking for donations. This year we had many wonderful contributors to thank including Cal Water, the City of Hermosa Beach, and South Bay Home Healthcare.

Continuing the tradition, on December 6, 2023 several volunteers joined BCHD’s CEO Tom Bakaly, Volunteer Engagement Supervisor, Alejandra Sierra and Volunteer Services Assistant, Leslie Kolczak at the BCHD office on Del Amo Street to spend the evening packing this year’s array of gifts into bags. This year, the 2633 Girl Scout Troup added its support.

Sienna from the 2633 Girl Scout Troop explained why she thought Holiday Gift Bags are a good idea:, “We all have a lot, but some people don’t have so much and don’t have a family to be with at Christmas. I think it’s a good idea to give them these gifts.” Her fellow Girl Scout Cooper added “We all wanted to come this evening. If it makes one person happy at Christmas that’s a good thing.”

Karen, a BCHD volunteer said, “We are all born to be social creatures and we know that a connection with others in the community enables us to survive and thrive. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to many health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease. I have always had a special place in my heart for elderly people.”

BCHD’s CEO Tom Bakaly reminded us all why the Holiday Gift Bag tradition has continued for so many years. “Many of the older adults in the community don’t have any family connections and don’t receive any gifts. We hear from several of our older adults that they keep their holiday gift bag for Christmas day, so they have something to open.

“It is certainly an important part of our older adult support services; letting the community know how much we do care.”

We wish everyone in the Beach Cities a very happy holiday!