Employees from Pfizer of Andover MA have once again risen to the spirit of holiday giving with their Wish List project. This is the 4th year Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore has been on the receiving end of the generosity of Pfizer. With the merger of our two agencies, North Shore Elder Services has been swept into the fold of this heartwarming project.
Jamie Perkins, a Quality Control Scientist at Pfizer, created this particular event 5 years ago. Pfizer already had an ongoing relationship with Elder Services. Initially it began with Pfizer choosing Elder Services to be one of five organizations they would focus on for charitable giving and outreach. One of the first fundraisers to benefit Elder Services was Pfizer’s Have a Heart bake sale that has been happening every February for the past 12 years. Their very successful bake sales generate over $1000 for whichever organization they choose each year!
Jamie started the gift-giving project with a small group of eight colleagues who bought children’s presents. “I was tentative to ask people in the beginning but it makes me so proud of the people I work with and the company I work for. They wanted to share and give back to the community. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work.”
The second year Jamie decided to roll out the project to her whole department and asked if they wanted to include elders. The answer was a resounding yes and the next phone call she made was to Bonnie Sisson, Development & Community Relations Coordinator at Elder Services. There was no existing project in place at Elder Services and so with the administrative support of Bonnie, Jamie’s brainchild came to fruition.
Bonnie came up with a worksheet for Care Managers to fill out for any elders they worked with who were identified as perhaps being alone or without the means or opportunity to celebrate the holiday. “We wanted to provide wishes…things they may not necessarily get….not just needs. We wanted to find out things like what their favorite candy was, what they liked to do, what special interests they might have.” The worksheet was simple but detailed. The Care Managers check off things like sizes and colors and various articles and toiletries.
The event started growing in the participation of the employees. They grew from 25 to 70 employees once it was opened to all those working under the Quality division. This season there are 71 employee shoppers to meet the wish lists of 71 elders.
Included in the project are the grandparents taking care of grandchildren. These families are sometimes thrust into situations they are not necessarily financially prepared to handle. This year Pfizer is able to help 11 grand families, which includes 15 children.
The Care Managers include a short story that illustrates who the elder is and what the circumstances are. It is these stories that make a significant impact for Jamie and her group of shoppers. It is no longer just a name on a wish list. The person becomes real even though you are buying for someone you are never going to meet.
Stories like these;
“M & H are raising their 3 year old granddaughter J. They are both disabled and have limited income. They have been raising J since birth. They have a difficult time making ends meet and would benefit from Market Basket or Walmart gift cards.”
“John, age 79, has no family in his life but is a very positive and kind man. He is very independent and prides himself on continuing to do what he can for himself. I would love for him to have a happy Christmas knowing that someone cares about him.”
“M is a 71 year old Vietnam veteran who lives with his spouse R (age 66) in a single room occupancy rooming house. There is a history of COPD, diabetes, coronary heart disease and cognitive issues. R has a history of diabetes, arthritis, and cognitive issues. They lost their son in a tragic auto accident 12 years ago. They live in a furnished room that has a queen-sized bed, dresser, television, microwave, and dormitory sized fridge. Both could use a warm winter coat, shirt, blouse, slacks, and weather resistant shoes.”
Shoppers are randomly assigned an elder, although may decide to buy for more than one person. Employees spend their own money and time donating to their shopping cause. Pfizer allows Jamie to purchase wrapping paper and allows her time to coordinate the event.
All of the participating employees then have a wrapping party on site at Pfizer, which becomes a holiday gathering and team building social event. Jamie is grateful and feels lucky to work for such a great company.
There is much organization put into holding this each year. Bonnie says she takes her cues from Jamie who starts in July getting the word out to her fellow employees and by September, she has the number of participants to give Bonnie. The staff at Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore is informed at staff meeting and by October, the worksheets are available to be completed.
The caravan of gift delivery vehicles arrives at Elder Services in Lawrence and Care Managers pick up their packages for delivery. It is a smooth operation run by Jamie and Bonnie and a host of other helping hands from both Pfizer and our agency.
When the Care Managers deliver the gifts, they sometimes might ask for a photo or sometimes the recipient expresses their gratitude in a note or a comment. Bonnie makes every effort to collect these comments to send to Jamie to share with her shoppers. It is a way of connecting the receiver to the giver.
Jamie has plans of continuing to grow the event and be able to reach even more elders and involve more of their employees. “It makes me grateful that I can do this. I feel the elders are forgotten a lot. I am glad we can partner with Elder Services.”
Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore is also grateful to Pfizer and their employees who put their hearts into generous giving. We get to bring the holiday spirit to several of our elders through this project.
Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne’s background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. “I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you’ll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services’ audience.”