“This is our third year,” said Darryl Whitehead, general manager of The Pinnacle at Turkey Creek, managed by Bayer Properties.
Pinnacle shoppers will see Christmas trees around the complex that have paper ornament bulbs on them. Each bulb will have wish lists of items for a senior citizen, Whitehead explained.
Now through Friday, Dec. 18, a shopper can pick one of the bulbs, shop for a senior then bring the gifts back, unwrapped, to The Pinnacle’s office at 11251 Parkside Drive.
“We then, as a team, wrap all the presents,” Whitehead said.
The wrapping paper has been donated by Costco, and the distribution to seniors’ homes has been provided by Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville, escorted by a representative of Knox County Sheriff’s Office who is dressed as Santa Claus, he said.
This year, The Pinnacle will be working with Town of Farragut, which has offered space in its Community Center to wrap and the distribute gifts, Whitehead added.
“Ashley (Lynch, Pinnacle’s security director) came to me three years ago with another employee and recommended that we get involved with this program,” Whitehead said. “As it started to unfold, we realized how much it’s actually really needed. There are so many seniors — the anchors of our community — that are sometimes without family, sometimes alone, and this is that one time of year that we all got to get together and remember everyone.”
The Pinnacle has partnered with Home Instead, a senior citizens service provider, which does the Be a Santa program nationally, to get the gifts to seniors.
After hearing about Home Instead’s program, Lynch contacted the agency and arranged the partnership.
“(Home Instead) had coordinated these locations throughout Town and done quite well over the years,” Whitehead said. “But we’re a shopping center and have a little more push, a little more excitement, and that excitement was what pushed us over the edge.
“When you see the requests” seniors make for Christmas, “You realize, ‘what can I do to help?’”
Whitehead said one senior’s list included soap, a manicure set, a magnifying glass, hand towels and an “easy jar opener.”
“The first year, I think we did 300 presents,” he said. “The second year, we did close to 500, and last year I stopped counting at 700.
“It was amazing,” Whitehead added. “As we got closer to Christmas, people were dropping more and more things off … it took four days to deliver 700 presents.
“And, to see the look on a lot of these seniors’ faces, as they opened things up and realized people were thinking of them was precious. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here.”