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story.lead_photo.caption The White River Area Agency on Aging is sponsoring a Silver Angel Tree program this year in Jackson County. The trees are on display at iCare Pharmacy and Merchants and Planters Bank in Newport. Pictured with the tree at Merchants and Planters Bank are, from left, Tracy Baxter, White River Area Agency on Aging; Mandy Rowland, iCare Pharmacy; Arlene Henry, WRAAA; Martha Edwards, Merchants and Planters Bank; Mary Ritcheson, WRAAA, Tammi Grady, WRAAA; and Sarah Chambliss, iCare. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

— Many seniors don’t expect gifts for the holidays, but a dedicated group of people is making sure seniors get their share of Christmas cheer.

The White River Area Agency on Aging is sponsoring a Silver Angel Tree program in Jackson County this year.

Arlene Haney, Jackson County WRAAA Care Manager, said this is the first year the Jackson County branch has participated in the program.

“I see the need of some of my clients, and I want to make their Christmas brighter,” she said. “We want to make it a yearly tradition. We have some other counties that have been doing it longer.”

Haney said the Agency on Aging has two trees up in Jackson County — one at iCare Rx Pharmacy and one at Merchants and Planters Bank, both in Newport.

Each tree has ‘angel tags’ hanging on it that indicate clothing size, gender and gift ideas for clients who don’t have family members around, she said.

The WRAAA is an organization dedicated to assisting and caring for elderly clients, enabling them to stay in their homes for as long as possible, she said.

Haney said she enjoys her job and hopes the program will make members of the community aware of the fact that some people don’t have families to spend time with on Christmas.

“The greatest memories [I have] are the ones where my clients recognize me, smile and are comfortable telling me their needs and problems — talking about families, pets and anything else they want to,” she said.

Gifts should be returned to the WRAAA office at 1200

Arkansas 367 in Newport by Friday, wrapped or unwrapped, with the angel tag attached to the gifts.

“We prefer to have the gifts by that date but will accept them after that if needed,” Haney said.

Tracy Baxter, WRAAA regional manager, said gift recipients are chosen based on need.

“We also choose, at times, based on those who have little or no family to help support them. For example, many family members live out of town or out of state,” she said.

Jackson and Woodruff counties participate in the WRAAA Silver Angel Tree program, she said, and Izard and Fulton counties have a similar Silver Angel Basket program.

Baxter said Woodruff County angel trees are located at Bill’s Pharmacy in Augusta, as well as at S&H Pharmacy and Merchant and Planters Bank in McCrory.

Izard County donation boxes for angel baskets are located at the WRAAA office and the FNBC lobby in Melbourne, she said.

Common angel basket donations include toiletries, puzzles, word searches, blankets, snacks, gift cards, lip balm and magnifiers.

The deadline to donate gifts is Friday, Baxter said.

“I believe the program is a ministry to our seniors from their community as a whole. Naturally, we focus on children during Christmas — but the truth is, we all want to be loved and thought of, especially during the season of joy and giving, no matter what age we are,” she said.

“Many seniors have experienced the loss of a spouse or may have family, but they live out of town or out of state. When we think about the holidays, we think of family, so it can be a lonely time for many. This is a wonderful way to spread Christmas cheer and let [seniors] know they are not forgotten,” Baxter said.

Local WRAAA teams work hard to make the program a reality, she said.

“It takes the entire team to coordinate each angel’s individual needs, coordinate the location of the trees, wrap presents and ensure that they are delivered in time,” Baxter said. “My favorite thing, hands down, is getting to see the clients’ faces and their reactions when I am blessed to help deliver the packages.”

Baxter said the Jackson and Izard county branches of WRAAA are happy to be participating in the program for the first time this year.

“WRAAA is simply a family of people who want to serve and care for others in their homes,” she said. “Each person in the agency contributes their own special strengths and talents, making our WRAAA family unique.

“We hope that in a small but meaningful way, this program will bring Christmas joy to seniors when and where they need it most — at home.”

For more information, contact the Jackson County White River Area Agency on Aging at (870) 523-4982, or visit the agency’s Facebook page.

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