By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

GRAPELAND – Can you imagine how lonely it must feel not to have anyone visit you – to wonder if anyone will remember you at Christmas?

Sometimes elderly Meals on Wheels recipients have contact with only one person during the week- the volunteer who drops off their Meals on Wheels meals.

For the second year, a non-profit organization, Adopt-a-Grandparent (Houston County) wants to make sure Meals on Wheels recipients receive a special gift at Christmas – a gift that is the joint product of not only local children, but from community members, businesses, churches and individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Adopt-a-Grandparent is an opportunity to give Christmas to those in Houston County who are unseen and often forgotten: Meals on Wheels recipients,” Adopt-a-Grandparent (Houston County) Coordinator Brenda S. Owens said. “Houston County currently serves 275 homebound elderly and infirm. For many of these residents, Meals on Wheels is the only human contact they have each and every week. It is my hope to reach out to them and let them know they are an important and valuable part of our community.”

Each gift is a Christmas-themed, decorated white lunch sack created by a child in elementary school. Not only do the children decorate and color the bag, they sign their first name and age on the Christmas card enclosed in the bag.

“Slocum Elementary just came on board with us for doing the bags so we will have Grapeland and Slocum kids decorating them,” Owens said. “These cards they did are so sweet. Last year I was in tears reading them. The sponsors that help us with this project – that money basically allows a child to give a gift to a senior.”

Also in the Christmas bag stuffed with green and red tissue paper is a homemade decorated cookie and a high-quality hand cream.

“We have multiple volunteers who will be baking and decorating homemade Christmas cookies to include in each bag. Feel free to include a personal note for each gift you sponsor, if you wish,” Owens said. “We have about 600 people involved between the baking, decorating, sponsors, kids, teachers, churches and community groups.”

For every $10 donation, at least one gift can be provided to a Meals on Wheels resident from a local child. For every $20 donation, at least three gifts can be provided, Owens said.

While the first year the children decorated bags for only Houston County Meals on Wheels recipients, this year the project will be expanded to other counties in the East Texas area.

“We are expanding to Anderson County and possibly Nacogdoches County. We are hoping to do Cherokee County and Rusk County as well,” Owens said, noting the plans are not set in stone yet until certain arrangements have been made.

Altogether, Anderson County has 239 Meals on Wheels recipients, Nacogdoches County has 240, Rusk County has 210 and Cherokee County has 240.

Following the distribution of gifts in Houston County in 2016, Department of Aging employee Wanda Alderman with Meals on Wheels wrote a letter to the Adopt-a-Grandparent (Houston County) program.

“I have called over 200 clients within the last week after we delivered the cookie bags. The response was wonderful and so positive. They especially liked the hand lotion. They were so happy to receive something from someone for Christmas. In other words, you made their day. Thanks for thinking of these people and hopefully you can do this again,” Alderman stated in a letter dated Dec. 27, 2016.

The deadline for monetary donations is Tuesday, Dec. 5. Checks for the Adopt-a-Grandparent service project can be made payable to Adopt-a-Grandparent. Any amount is appreciated. The mailing address is Brenda S. Owens, Attn: Adopt-a-Grandparent (Houston County), 2016 1865N, Grapeland, TX, 75844.

“We can put the names of the individual, business or organization which provided the gift, or if they choose, they can remain anonymous. They are welcome to include a note in their bags,” Owens said.

In addition, volunteers are needed to decorate cookies.

“We will be decorating cookies Dec. 13, Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Grace Bible Church here in Grapeland,” Owens said. “We also will need help packing the bags. We will do that starting at 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at the church. The bags will be delivered on Dec. 18.”

To give a donation or to volunteer to help with the Adopt-a-Grandparent program, call Owens at 936-222-9781 or 936-687-350 and leave a message or e-mail Adopt-a-Grandparent (Houston County) at aag.bowens@gmail.com.