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Denise Murray hopes to win the champagne wreath created by Compassionate Care Hospice at the MAS Home Care of New Hampshire's Stockings for Seniors wreath and gift silent auction on Nov. 21. The event was hosted by The Arbors of Bedford. (SUSAN CLARK/Union Leader Correspondent)

Wreath Stroll benefits Stockings for Seniors

BEDFORD — A simple gift can make a world of difference to a senior citizen living alone, especially during the holidays.

Over the past two years, the Stockings for Seniors program has brought holiday cheer to more than 300 local seniors by providing gifts of every-day necessities, blankets, sweaters, gift cards and other much-needed items.

On Thursday, The Arbors of Bedford and MAS Home Care of New Hampshire hosted a Wreath Stroll to benefit Stockings for Seniors, MAS's nonprofit organization that collects and delivers holiday gifts to local seniors. MAS agencies also provide services to seniors and home-bound patients in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

About 42 handmade wreaths and 30 gift baskets were available for bid during the silent raffle, ranging from traditional wreaths with balls, bows and snowmen to the unique created by sixth-graders using pencils, pens, paper clips and erasers.

"The regional TB Bank branches challenged their employees and they gave us 19 wreaths," said Anne Walls, client serve manager of MAS Home Care of New Hampshire.

Members of organizations, volunteers and businesses created and donated the wreaths. All proceeds from the silent auction, 50/50 raffle and bake sale will directly benefit Stockings for Seniors. Also contributing were Natural or Not Salon and Spa, Deerfield Community School, Carlyle Place, Goodman Networks, The Meetinghouse, MAS Home Care of New Hampshire, Bellwether Credit Union, Briston Manor, The Arbors of Bedford, Elliot Hospital, Southern Memorial and the Courville Community. Local pianist Forrest Schmitt serenaded the guests at the event.

"It's gaining momentum. It's our third year and it's getting bigger and bigger, and people are getting the word out," said Jay Hamel, president of MAS Home Care of New Hampshire.

Hamel said a neighbor, a World War II veteran living alone, had been wearing the same pajamas day in and day out. Last year, the veteran received new pajamas and a robe, and this year he will unwrap a new sweater.

Hamel's mission is for his employees to be involved in the program as much as possible, including delivering the gifts to seniors — an event Hamel also enjoys doing. "I like to have everybody in the office go and experience it. It's very rewarding," he said. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of lonely people out there. Give them some of your time and they'll be happy with that."

The organization relies on referrals from state social workers, case managers and hospitals, but the public is also welcome to refer a senior in need.

"These are seniors who are living on their own, who are more isolated. To receive Stockings for Seniors, they have to be 65 and older, and they don't have family support," said Walls. "The hope is to make a bigger impact on helping them with bills. When they're no longer working, society seems to forget them. They're on limited income, have pharmacy bills, and often need necessities."

Topping the list of preferred gifts are gift cards and coupons for salons, lawn service and house cleaning, etc.; men's and women's sweaters hats, scarves, gloves and slippers; bath items and toiletries; and puzzles, old movies, books, sugar-free candies and picture frames.

Molly Marino, MAS-NH marketing director, said the community provides exceptional support.

"Every year we're overwhelmed by the response we receive from businesses and the general public. Everyone we speak to is interested in the program. Everyone is always willing to help and donate," Marino said. "Facebook has been a wonderful tool for us, especially this year. We have messages from people almost every day, reaching out and asking how they can help. I can't even put into words how very proud I am of our community."

Michele Ellis, director of The Arbors of Bedford, an assisted-living facility for people with Alzheimer's disease and other memory impairment issues, said Stockings for Seniors provides a vital service to the senior community, and her organization is proud to take part. "There are a lot of seniors out there that are really in need this time of year. The Arbors helping out is representing every one of our seniors here," Ellis said.

Deirdre Hewett, director of sales and marketing, said The Arbors staff specializes in the residents' personal care. "It's a special place. We structure our day around the seniors to make their day best," she said.

MAS kicks off the Stockings for Seniors campaign in October, but the staff begins the process in the summer and reaches out to businesses and social workers in the fall. If you know of someone who would benefit from Stockings for Seniors, contact MAS Home Care in Manchester at 296-0960, email or visit For more information on The Arbors of Bedford, call 647-9300 or visit

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