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Valley Haven workers
Rebeckah Villa-Lopez holds a stack of presents she and Valley Haven workers including, in back, Mayela Rubio, Araceli Pena and Connie Alfaro collected and packaged for elderly shut-ins this holiday season.//Len Wood/Staff

For homebound seniors, many struggling to survive on fixed incomes, some suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year.

Local nonprofit agency Valley Haven has set out to ensure at least a little Christmas cheer finds its way to 347 seniors in the Lompoc Valley this year, by giving them “Christmas Remembrance Boxes.”

“I don’t want a senior to be forgotten during the holidays,” said Valley Haven Program Director Rebeckah Villa-Lopez.

The present boxes all came from the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, where they were also nicely wrapped by volunteers.

The program began last year when Villa-Lopez helped deliver 260 presents to elders in Lompoc and Buellton, she said.

“We could not do this without the Unity Shoppe,” Villa-Lopez said during an interview last week, sitting next to the mound of presents. 

Along with partner agencies the Lompoc Senior Center, Buellton Senior Center, Meals on Wheels, and Community Partners in Caring, Villa-Lopez said the presents would be distributed this week.

Villa-Lopez said Valley Haven representatives, including herself, will be distributing many of the presents through the week. “Sometimes they’re lonely and want to talk for a few minutes. Sometimes they have a little Christmas tree with nothing under it,” Villa-Lopez said.

The seniors nominated to receive a present have the chance to select the gift they would like most from a list: Sweaters, socks, nightgowns, easy-to-read alarm clocks, books, shoes, space heaters. Gifts are also personalized for size and color, to match each senior’s preferences.

Some of the gifts, including Lap blankets and slippers, were made by the seniors of the Santa Barbara Convalescent Care Center.

Even this year’s bevy of presents will not reach all low-income housebound seniors in the community, Villa-Lopez said. She suggested anyone who knows of a senior in need could contact Valley Haven at

733-9459 as early as August 2010 to be included on next year’s gift list.

“There’s a lot of need right now. Next year, we may have 500 people.”

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