The coronavirus won’t be stopping the Green River Area Development District and its long-term care ombudsman program from ensuring Christmas for some vulnerable residents in the seven-county region.

It will be through the annual Silver Bells program that gift bags will be delivered to the long-term care homes that have been chosen for this year.

According to Heather Mullican, long-term care ombudsman, the public purchased the gift items in the past but the virus is forcing a slight change at least for this year.

“With the pandemic going on, we didn’t feel real comfortable asking (the public) to go into places to shop,” said Mullican, who is in her second year of overseeing the Silver Bells project. “So we’ve changed that and we’re requesting monetary donations so we can buy things in bulk, and hopefully contact-free.”

The statewide program was established in the GRADD region five years ago.

With seven counties, the program targets two of the counties with long-term care homes and then alternates them each year.

Mullican said it will be the long-term care homes in Hancock and McLean counties, which impact about 90 residents.

“All of the different regions try to do something for nursing homes, personal care homes or different residents in facilities throughout the state,” she said.

The donations collected will be used to purchase items such as snacks, socks, gloves and puzzle books for the residents.

“They’re usually very appreciative of this because these are things they would be buying with their own money,” Mullican said. “It’s a treat — a soda or a snack. It frees up resources they can use on other things that they want.”

Mullican added that the gift bags can be tailored to a specific individual.

“I know we had one gentleman who really, really wanted sodas,” Mullican said. “So his bag had a lot of sodas in it. The bags have a variety of things but if somebody has a preference for certain items, we try to fill their bag with those items.”

The deadline is Dec. 11 for the monetary donations. Checks can be mailed to GRADD at 300 GRADD Way, Owensboro, KY 42301 or placed in the mail drop box in front of the GRADD office. The memo line or envelope should designate the contribution to Silver Bells.

“We plan on delivering Dec. 21 and Dec. 22,” Mullican said. “That gives us a deadline and week to purchase items and get the bags filled.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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