Pioneer House projects assist those in need during holidays

The Senior Giving Tree is set up at the Die Brücke building.

The Senior Giving Tree is set up at the Die Brücke building. Photo by Brenden Koch.

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WALLA WALLA — Pioneer House Assisted Living is in the holiday spirit, hosting a holiday food drive and helping with the Senior Giving Tree.

Pioneer House has operated in the community for about 17 years, according to Mindy Stonebraker, residence sales manager.

“It’s assisted living,” Stonebraker said, “to help seniors be as independent as possible. We help with medication management, bathing, dressing, transferring.”

Drop-off locations

Gift bags may be dropped off at:

Pioneer House, 1018 Whitman St.

Quail Run, 1701 Plaza Way

Eagle Meadows, 550 E. Whitman Drive, College Place

For more information, call 522-4630.

Residents and staff selected the holiday food drive as a project to assist those in need.

“As a group, we decided to help out,” she said.

Cereals, canned meats, beans, peanut butter, tuna, soup, pasta and other nonperishable foods help add cheer to the holidays for those who are less fortunate — seniors, children and families.

The drive is just under way, and will last until Dec. 18.

“We will be collecting canned food through mid-December,” she said. “You can just drive up and drop it off.”

Pioneer House begins this month’s food drive coming off the success of a drive it hosted for Blue Mountain Action Council this past summer. The food collected during this drive will be donated to one of the area’s major food distribution points, although they haven’t yet decided which one.

Seniors in need are often forgotten. Some may be socially isolated, and some may not be able to get out of the house. To combat feelings of isolation, Pioneer House is taking part in the Senior Giving Tree program for the fourth year. A tree is set up in the lobby of the Die Brücke building, with tags bearing suggestions for gifts local seniors are wishing for.

“Last year we had over 400 tags,” Stonebraker said.

Each tag indicates whether the recipient is male or female. Those wanting to help out can select a tag and buy a suggested gift, or several. You don’t have to buy everything on the tag — it just gives you options. Last year, people were extremely generous, with one person buying everything on the tag, she said.

To ensure all gifts are appropriate for the recipients, organizers request that gifts be left unwrapped and put in a gift bag. The recipient’s identity is protected — there’s an inventory number on the tag instead of a name.

A crew from Meals On Wheels does much of the delivering of the gift bags; Stonebraker does a lot of the rest.

“We reached out to Meals On Wheels at the Senior Center,” she said. “The Senior Center has been fabulous.”

“Often the seniors are too proud to ask for help. The Meals On Wheels volunteers are looking to see what they need. Maybe they need new clothes or heaters, and they couldn’t afford it. They may have no family and have a low income. Maybe they would like a luxury item, such as a box of chocolates and they can’t spend the Social Security money on it. They have to buy prescriptions and pay for electricity,” she said.

Stonebraker said they have networked with many of the social service agencies in town to find those who could benefit from some generous holiday gifts.

“Often, groups take a bundle of tags, like the Corps of Engineers,” she said. “Sometimes they just need undershirts, socks or winter PJs, not huge items. Although one individual needed a window replaced. We got Home Depot cards and someone donated the time to put the window in. Working with the Senior Center has just been great.”

Pioneer House staff and residents are celebrating the holiday season and invite others to celebrate with them. The facility’s doors are open so people can drop off donations and enjoy some warm refreshments. Or, Stonebraker said, give them a call a couple of hours before lunch and you can reserve a $5 meal.

“You can get a feel for what we are here, it’s a good seniors group. It’s the smallest assisted living center in the area. It’s a small, homelike care center.”

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