While many folks have been cooking food or doing their holiday shopping, community members at Siena Lakes, a Erickson Senior Living community in Naples, Fla., have been collecting food for those less fortunate as well as collecting toys for Toys for Tots.
This holiday season, residents donated so much food that it was distributed to two local nonprofit organizations: St. Matthew’s House, a Christian-based organization that works to improve hunger, homelessness, poverty, and substance abuse, and the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.
Even though this past November marked the first Thanksgiving at Siena Lakes, that didn’t stop people from donating lots of food.
“Our campus hasn’t even been open six months, and our residents were already actively giving back. This shows the level of engagement that Siena Lakes residents have. It’s been outstanding,” says Manager of Resident Services, Craig Ellsworth. “I wasn’t surprised by it, knowing how philanthropically minded they are. There’s a lot of giving back that happens here in Naples.”
Mark Pratt, who lives at Siena Lakes and has been volunteering for sixteen years at St. Matthew’s House, agrees. “I think people were very generous in contributing, and I hope they’ll do it again,” says Pratt.
Ellsworth says that while it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much food was collected, he estimates that it was about a thousand pounds.
Toys for Tots is the latest charity that people living at Siena Lakes have been donating to. And these collection projects are not only helping residents to weave acts of kindness into their holiday celebrations, but it’s also helping those on campus making a positive difference to the broader community as well as themselves.
“Giving back is always a win/win,” explains Pratt. It benefits both the person who receives it and the person who gives it.”
“Even during this busy time of the year, residents are so generous with their time, talents, and treasures, not only to do good in the world, but to also feel good in the world,” says Jeff Watson, Erickson Senior Living’s Director of Operations. “It’s this spirit of kindness that always radiates throughout our campuses and enables those who call Siena Lakes home to make a joyful difference in the lives of so many.”
Pratt even used it as a way to help him get through grief when his wife, Susie, passed away three years ago. “I tell people who are going through the grieving process to get out and volunteer. Start giving back and getting involved with other people. It helps you to get outside yourself. It doesn’t mean the loss is any less, but it’s a way to cope,” he says.
But as folks at Siena Lakes have shown, giving back takes place oftentimes just because they want to help others. “Volunteering gives you a totally different perspective on life. If you’re reaching out to other people to help them, you have a completely different view of life than if you’re just sitting around and being involved only with yourself,” says Pratt.
He thinks that seeing all that the folks at Siena Lakes have done to give back to their community in various ways during this holiday season shows how the campus is a supportive, responsive, and generous community. “The holidays are an important time to be with other people, and I think that giving back makes it special,” he says.
“One of the most rewarding things about being part of this community is that the residents are friendly and outgoing. They want to be involved with people,” Pratt says. “That’s a very important part of why I came to live at Siena Lakes.”
Ellsworth agrees. “From the very beginning, we have always built a culture of gratitude at Siena Lakes, which is a part of our Erickson values of friendliness, enthusiasm, and giving back,” he says. “The residents here seem to have always been about giving back and being engaged in an attitude of gratitude.”
The first step to enjoying maintenance-free retirement living at Siena Lakes is to request a brochure.