Holiday helpers

Sisters spread holiday cheer by distributing stockings of goodies to local seniors.

Senior support: Doris Lare (left) and Rose Marie Schneider are collecting donations to fill 300 stockings for “Christmas for Seniors,” which will be distributed to residents of Immaculate Mary Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, at 2990 Holme Ave. MELISSA KOMAR / TIMES PHOTO

On Christmas Eve, the stockings will be filled for the seniors with care, thanks to the efforts of sisters Rose Marie Schneider and Doris Lare.

The Kensington natives and longtime Port Richmond residents are collecting donations to fill 300 stockings for seniors for the third year in a row, an effort they call “Christmas for Seniors.”

While in between jobs in 2015, Lare took on housekeeping at Immaculate Mary Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, a nursing home at 2990 Holme Ave.

“I would see how many residents never had any visitors whatsoever,” Lare said, “and for us, it’s always been a nostalgic thing to get a Christmas stocking, so for us, we thought we would purchase stockings for them.”

This year, after coordinating with Bernadette O’Donnell, director of recreation therapy and volunteers at Immaculate Mary, the sisters put a post on Facebook and spread the word among family and friends and the effort took off.

For O’Donnell, the residents at Immaculate Mary are like family, so the sisters’ efforts are especially meaningful.

“To share the holiday spirit with the residents, our family, means a lot to the staff,” she said. “We are a community of caring and we try to meet that mission in every way possible. The residents are our family, and it’s nice to know they are remembered by the community during the holiday season.”

There are 296 residents at the nursing home, and the sisters had no idea how many stockings all the donations would fill, but they received enough for more than 300.

In addition to the stockings for the seniors at Immaculate Mary, Lare and Schneider donate filled stockings to Penn Home in Fishtown, and hope to provide stockings for Nativity B.V.M. Place in Port Richmond.

“Our goal is to be able to give Nativity stockings, too, but Immaculate Mary and Penn Home have been our starting places,” Lare said. “Three-hundred is the minimum goal, but one day we’d like to donate stockings to all three facilities.”

Filling the stockings is no easy feat, and the sisters receive help from family, friends and outside groups.

Third-grade students at St. Matthew School in Mayfair provided and filled 52 stockings last year and are doing it this year. The Lansing Knights soccer team filled stockings, too. Staff from Cohox Playground donated items. One individual donated 300 toothbrushes. Philadelphia Police Department 911 dispatchers donate items. Students from Our Mother of Consolation made Christmas cards.

Family and friends living as far away as Florida send checks, which are used to purchase items for the stockings.

Items collected for the stockings include toothbrushes, toothpaste, full-size shampoos, conditioners, body washes and tissues, brushes, combs, calendars, puzzle books, $1 lottery scratch-off tickets and candy.

Residents with dementia receive a fleece blanket.

Ninety-eight percent of the items are donated, and the sisters cover any last-minute costs such as a shortage of shampoo.

While Lare and Schneider are responsible for collecting and sorting the donations and stuffing and delivering the stockings, they are quick to give credit to the community.

“It’s not us, it’s the community,” Lare said. “We could never fill 300 stockings on our own.”

“I’d have to quit my job and do couponing full-time,” Schneider agreed, lightheartedly.

On Dec. 23, Lare, Schneider, Lare’s 17-year-old daughter, Brooke Lare, and Schneider’s 24-year-old niece, Nichole Snyder, and her boyfriend, Albert Brown, fill the stockings and on Christmas Eve afternoon, the group hand delivers a stocking to each senior.

The first year the stockings were delivered unfolded serendipitously: Lare and Schneider walked in, dressed all in their festive gear, as a staff member was reading the line from ’Twas the Night Before Christmas when St. Nick first appears.

The best part of last year’s special delivery was seeing stockings from the previous year hung in seniors’ rooms and seniors remembering them.

To spread the Christmas spirit, both sisters wear Santa shirts, hats and Christmas light necklaces.

The sisters pointed out that there are many great organizations, including Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army, that serve other populations during the holidays, but seniors are often overlooked.

“These seniors aren’t getting visitors during the holidays, so at least on Christmas Eve, everyone is getting a visitor,” Lare said. “Just to bring a smile to their faces and remember our seniors during the holidays is our goal.”

“Everybody likes to receive something on Christmas, everybody likes to be remembered and feel special,” Schneider added. “We just want to remember our seniors.” ••

To donate items to Christmas for Seniors, call Doris at 215–694–4017 or Rose Marie at 215–880–0859 or message either sister on Facebook. Donations can also be dropped off at Eileen’s Beauty Salon, 2574 Memphis St.; and state Rep. John Taylor’s Bridesburg office, 4725 Richmond St., and his Port Richmond office, 2901 E. Thompson St. Items accepted include toothbrushes, toothpaste, full-size shampoos, conditioners, body washes and tissues, calendars, puzzle books and candy. Donations will be accepted until Dec. 23.