Highmark employees bring Christmas cheer to senior citizens
PARKERSBURG — Highmark employees helped brighten the holiday season for local seniors by collecting and distributing wrapped gifts as part of its “Presents for Seniors” program.
Highmark employees presented the gifts for 45 less-fortunate area seniors to Major Matt Riley of the Salvation Army of Parkersburg Wednesday at Highmark’s downtown Parkersburg offices to distribute through its “Meals on Wheels” program.
“Every year, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield partners with the Salvation Army’s Meals on Wheels program to provide gifts for seniors in our area,” said coordinator Terri Klingenberg, a senior enrollment and billing representative for Highmark. “There are so many organizations who help out the children around here, but we want to help out the seniors.
“We do a lot with seniors here at Highmark and in many cases seniors are the ones who are forgotten and we want them to know that they are special too. We wanted them to know that they are not forgotten and we do care.”
In its eighth year of doing this, Highmark gets a list of names from the Salvation Army’s meals program and the items people need which are placed on tags and put up on a Christmas tree in its building.
“Our employees pick out tags from the tree, they go out and shop and bring the gifts back in,” Klingenberg said.
Riley was on hand Wednesday to pick up the gifts and take them back to the Salvation Army for distribution through the meals program.
“It is something our employees really look forward to doing every year,” Klingenberg said.
The people the gifts are being bought for range in age from their 60s to in their 90s.
Gifts include blankets, slippers, sweatshirts, sweaters, writing paper, stamps and sundry items. Some people wanted laundry detergent, dryer sheets and non-perishable food items.
“Many are things we don’t think about all of the time, but mean a lot to our seniors,” Klingenberg said. “Our employees really like to do this and they go over and above to make Christmas happy for them.”
All of the tags were picked within the first hour of being put up. Many employees contacted organizers to see if more tags will be put up or if there is something they can get that can be added to what was already collected, Highmark’s Medicare Advantage Manager Meggan Merritt said.
People brought in gift cards and other items that were used to augment what others had bought, she said.
Riley said the seniors being served are not homebound but have trouble getting out. Some have been by themselves for a while, he added.
“This is just another special way we can say ‘Merry Christmas’ to them and tell them they are not forgotten,” he said. “It is pretty cool to be able to do this for them. “They are great folks.”
Riley complimented Highmark for taking an interest in seniors’ needs this time of year.
“It is a big deal,” he said. “We are not forgetting these seniors. We feed them and care for them. We want to make sure they get a good Christmas. It is good to work with people who really care.”
For the Highmark employees, being able to do this reminds them that someone they are close to could end up in a similar situation someday.
“They want to treat these people like their parents, their grandparents, aunts and uncles,” Klingenberg said. “It puts joy in their hearts.
“This is the time of year when everyone wants a little warmth in their heart. People feel good about doing good things for other people.”