An in-home care agency has joined forces with local businesses and senior communities to make the holidays a little brighter for some of the lonely and less fortunate citizens of the Lowcountry.
Home Instead Senior Care's worldwide "Be a Santa to a Senior" program helps provide holiday gifts to those who might not otherwise receive any.
The Savannah franchise of Home Instead, which serves the Savannah area and Beaufort and Jasper counties, is hoping to play Santa to many local residents this year.
Rachel Carson, owner of Home Instead in Savannah, said last year's initiative brought 2,000 gifts to 511 area residents. The majority -- about two-thirds -- of those were in South Carolina.
She said this year there are 560 names on the list, with 310 from South Carolina.
"It makes our Christmas," Carson said. "It's our way of giving back to the community."
Home Instead seeks the help of nursing homes, assisted living communities and other organizations to identify who might benefit from the program and what kind of gifts they would like.
Local businesses then put the gift requests on special ornaments and hang them on trees for customers to grab and fulfill.
Unwrapped gifts must be returned by Friday.
After the gifts are purchased and donated, they are then wrapped. A group of Hilton Head Island High School students and residents of Broad Creek Assisted Living are donating their time to wrap presents for the program.
The public is invited to help wrap gifts at a wrapping party at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the S.H.A.R.E. Senior Center.
To help with the cost of wrapping all those gifts, three assisted-living communities -- Palm Meadows Village, Palm Meadows Court and Hawthorne Inn -- will host a progressive cook-off.
This year's cook-off is set for Thursday.
The evening will begin with appetizers at 6 p.m. at Palm Meadows Court. Guests will proceed to Palm Meadows Village for chili and beer, and finish up with dessert at Hawthorne Inn.
Herndon said several local restaurants are helping with the event. The suggested donation is $10.
This is the fourth year of the fundraiser. Palm Meadows Village community relations director Adam Herndon said last year's event attracted about 200 people and raised about $1,500.
"Being able to reach out really warmed my heart," Herndon said. "And I think that's what the holiday season is about."