'Tis the season to help: Elves for Elders plans July 17 Christmas party

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People often think of giving during the holidays. There are appeals made on behalf of various charities and organizations asking for financial, in-kind or personal support. It can be demanding and hard to determine what causes to back and how much should be given to help at that point.

While helping out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can be fulfilling, what happens during the rest of the year? People who are in need are still in that situation after the holidays. Where can they turn when everyone stops thinking about charities and helping others?

The answer is with Maxine Mae Hutchins of Right At Home in Warwick, where she has been the catalyst for Elves for Elders. Similar to the Toys for Tots initiative sponsored by the United States Marine Corps, Hutchins’ program helps seniors who might not receive gifts for the holidays. This year, Hutchins wanted to change things up by hosting an event during the summer to help get people motivated.

“Anytime should be a time for giving, not just for the holidays,” said Hutchins, who is now in her 16th years doing this program. “There are people who may not have families or loved ones around or they are unable to get out and get something for themselves. This is one of the main reasons why I started this. They are so grateful and appreciative for what they get from the generosity of others.”

Hutchins said the roots of Elves for Elders began when she worked as a social worker in senior housing. She made Christmas cards for 200 residents that drew concerns from friends and colleagues saying it would be wasting her time. Hutchins said when one of her residents thanked her for the card stating it was the only one she received for Christmas that gave her all the motivation necessary to keep going.

“That resident had never married and had no children. Then, I thought if I’m the only one that gave her a card, and I certainly did not give her a gift, then how sad is that; not receiving any gifts at Christmas?” she said.

The first year was out of Hutchins home with 300 gift requests. In 2007, I started a non-profit association of women who provide services to seniors called Seniors RULE (Resources Unlimited - Liaisons for Elders). They meet monthly to participate in community events to act as a one-stop resource for seniors and/or their caregivers. Part of being a member is supporting Elves for Elders, she noted.

As the Elves for Elders program grew, Hutchins said she needed to move the holding site for the gifts. Three years ago, she found her current site at Lakewood Baptist Church in Warwick. She collected gifts from the malls after Thanksgiving weekend and held them at the church until our ‘wrapping’ event on December 13th, where the group sorted and assembled the gifts. She added that the group did all of the wrapping until five years ago, when they requested gift bags be included with the stars.

All of this begins on Wednesday, July 17, when the RULE sponsors its Christmas in July event. It takes place at Cucina Rustica, 555 Atwood Avenue, Cranston, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The $25 fee includes dinner, desert and coffee, along with a cash bar, raffles, door prizes and a 50/50 raffle. Entertainment will be provided by Ishmael Muzik.

She said there is a reason for the extra workload.

“The reason for the fundraiser is that when the trees come down on December 10, we have about 250-300 stars left on the trees that don’t get filled,” she said. “I have businesses that host a tree at work or at their business for a specific facility. Engaging businesses is a goal I have been trying to work on for the past couple of years as the number of gift requests continue to grow. The past two years, we have averaged 1,200 gift requests from 22 various nursing homes, day cares, senior centers and subsidized assisted livings.

Starting on November 1, there are trees that will display stars at various malls throughout the region. These stars include a gift for an elder that customers can pick up and purchase. All tress will be up at Emerald Square Mall in Attleboro, Wrentham Village Outlets, Catherine Specialty Clothing in Cranston, Mission Nutrition in Cranston and Warwick Mall. They will be removed on December 10.

“People are very generous if they are made aware of the program,” Hutchins continues. “I often get donations as well. Last year I started using the Square. I can send someone an invoice and they can donate that way.”

Hutchins said there will be an opportunity to win a trip for two to South Africa. She said this would be a separate event this year starting in October with the winner to be drawn at the wrapping event. Tickets are $100 and only 25 tickets are sold for this special drawing, so the odds are pretty food, said Hutchins.

Tickets for the July event may be purchased by contacting Maxine Mae Hutchins 286-3821 or by email at threeofcupz@gmail.com. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

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