Chris Arrasmith

Photo by Christina O’Connor

Photo by Christina O’Connor

Like a lot of stores this time of year, Walgreens on S. Beretania Street has had a Christmas tree set up for weeks. But look closely at this tree and you’ll find that its ornaments have words like “blankets,” “toiletries,” “playing cards,” “towels” and “socks.” These basic items are the wish lists of seniors in need from around the island. Through Home Instead Senior Care’s annual Be a Santa to a Senior program, 250 seniors are hoping to get these simple holiday gifts.

“We want to bring something to these seniors at Christmastime to let them know that the community is behind them still,” says Home Instead home care liaison Chris Arrasmith, who has volunteered to run the program this year.

Here’s how it works: Select an ornament, purchase the item listed, put the item and the ornament together in the collection box located behind the tree by Dec 16. Then, volunteers will wrap the items, and Dec. 18 gifts will be delivered to seniors.

Many of the items probably could be found right there at Walgreens. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you also can shop elsewhere and drop off the gift.

Home Instead, which is comprised of hundreds of franchise offices throughout the world, is an in-home care business that aims to help seniors stay in their homes as long as possible. This marks the fifth year that Home Instead has offered Be a Santa to a Senior at its Honolulu office. Arrasmith says that it hopes to expand the program in future years.

The company identified needy seniors by partnering with various local nonprofits, including Hawaii Foodbank, Papakolea Community Development Association, Meals on Wheels and Moiliili Community Center.

“In one way or another, I have been working with seniors for a long time,” says Arrasmith, who has worked in long-term care for years. “So this is something that is near and dear to my heart. There are a lot of seniors who are at risk and/or just kind of get neglected at Christmas.

“Kids always get a lot of the attention, which they should – I am happy about that. But there are a lot of seniors out there, too, who have a lot of issues. Sometimes the holidays can be depressing for people if they don’t have something in their lives. So maybe this helps a little.”

According to the Administration on Aging, 28 percent of noninstitutionalized seniors in the nation – or 11.8 million people – live alone. Home Instead hopes that this program can not only deliver practical items, but also a little joy this holiday season.

“We would like to ultimately get something for everyone on the list,” Arrasmith says.

The tree is located at Walgreens on 1121 S. Beretania St. For more information, visit