Student Social Work Association adopts senior citizens

Members of Youngstown State University’s Student Social Work Association are “adopting” the elderly this holiday season.

“It’s always about the kids, so we thought we would do something for the opposite spectrum,” said SSWA President Krista Brawley.

SSWA members designated the Adopt-a-Senior project — which involves students fulfilling the wishes of nearly 30 senior citizens — an essential part of the organization’s agenda.

The SSWA teamed up with Austin Woods Nursing Center in Youngstown to make the project possible.

Brawley, a YSU senior, said the group votes on potential projects. With the group’s approval, Adopt-a-Senior was launched.

“The elderly are not always thought of on the holidays like the kids are,” Brawley said.

Brawley called local nursing homes but found a match when she talked to Chris Ford, activities director at Austin Woods.

“Krista and I were on the same page,” Ford said. “I had already been doing the Adopt-A-Senior project so that every resident could receive a present.”

Ford has provided gifts for the residents since she started 15 years ago.

“We wanted to give them more than a little something,” Ford said. “I have great area sponsors who have been wonderful, and with the help of the YSU students, we are able to complete our goal.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, people 65 years and older account for roughly one out of six Youngstown residents.

The care center planned to provide gifts, but one wing of the facility was not yet accounted for.

That’s where SSWA members will step in.

“We’re one of the larger nursing homes,” Ford said. “We have seven wings, and we’re pretty close to capacity.”

Brawley said the organization’s members intend to volunteer as Santa’s helpers to pass out gifts.

Brawley said that in her previous years as an SSWA member, the group lacked projects involving the elderly. However, Adopt-a-Senior is the perfect way to become more involved with this population.

“We’ll get a gift list soon and can’t wait to be a part of a nice holiday for these folks,” Brawley said.

“We want to give them more than a little something by giving them a happy holiday.”

On board with Brawley, Ford aspires to accomplish the same goal with the project.

“I want to make sure that every resident believes in the magic of the holidays,” Ford said. “With YSU taking a wing, I can get back to playing Santa.”

Besides adopting the elderly, the association is working on the Adopt-a-Unit project that began in September. Brawley said the organization has sent more than 61 pounds of toiletries to those deployed in Afghanistan, with more still being collected and dispersed.

“We hope to show the soldiers that they are overwhelmingly appreciated for their heroism and be able to help them fulfill their needs,” Brawley said.

Brawley said the main objective of the SSWA is to simply help others.

“Our organizational purpose is to unite and take effective action on campus and in our community to enrich the lives of others through our service goals,” she said.