Senior gift tradition in jeopardy


Love is the Answer is about 1,500 gifts short of what it needs; and right now about that many seniors living in retirement homes are looking at a Christmas with no presents at all.

Diane Thompson and her friend Eileen McNulty have celebrated five Christmases together. Diane, a Love is the Answer, or LITA volunteer - always brings a special gift to Eileen.

"It just means an awful lot, an awful lot - they are all nice gifts too," said Eileen McNulty, Novato resident. Diane has been one of LITA's Santas for isolated seniors for 13 years.

"If you could just see the faces it's just wonderful, I love it," said Diane Thompson, LITA volunteer.

Eileen is one of the 2,000 elderly in Marin County who received gifts last year from LITA. But with only 300 gifts donated so far the year, the magic of this program, and Christmas itself, is being put to the test. LITA executive director Aline Shaw blames the economy. But as of right now, Santa may have nothing for some seniors.

"I don't know what we'll tell them. We've been hoping to get these gifts. We'll just have to give to the most in need and the others will not get any this year," said Aline Shaw, LITA executive director. For some seniors, the LITA gift will be the only gift they receive.

"Most of the people we that we serve either don't have family that visit, or visit infrequently, or are also low income people. There all kinds of reasons people end up abandoned in their old age and it happens in Marin just like it happens everywhere else," said Gerrda Focardi, LITA volunteers director.

"We've been doing this for five years and it would be sad if they were not able to have a gift," said Shaw.

"Most of the residents who don't have family would not receive a gift at all and the LITA gift program has really meant a lot," said Thompson.

Eileen described Christmas without that gift from LITA.

"Empty, empty because you don't have anything you know," said McNulty.

If you'd like to help -- you can bring a new unwrapped bathrobe, a few pair of socks a sweatshirt or nightgown to LITA offices here at 4340 Redwood Highway Suite 101 San Rafael, or call 415-472-5482 to find out about donating cash.

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