NEW PORT RICHEY — As the holiday season starts up, there are a variety of charity drives that deserve attention. From food drives for the needy to gift drives for children, there are plenty of ways to help everyone in the community enjoy the holidays. But there is a less popular cause that is often forgotten during the season: senior citizens.

“Be a Santa to a Senior” is a gift giving program presented by Home Instead Senior Care. It started 16 years ago in 2003, and the New Port Richey location has been involved for 14 years. John Murphy owns the office with his wife, Stacey.

On trees set up in over 30 local businesses, through Dec. 16, people can take an ornament that has a senior’s first name and gift suggestions that they hope to receive. The unwrapped presents are then returned to the business with the attached ornament.

Last year, around 2,000 gifts were given to more than 635 seniors from the Pasco location. This year, there are even more gifts to be donated to around 700 senior citizens.

“We never thought it would grow into this,” Murphy said.

There were so many businesses that wanted to help the program that some had to be turned away. He enjoys seeing how eager the public is to give back.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “They embrace this as much as we do.”

Murphy called the most common gift suggestions “heartbreaking,” as the seniors often ask for inexpensive basic items, such as socks, blankets, slippers, toiletries and bathrobes.

He believes that in the spirit of giving presents to people in need during the holiday season, seniors are overlooked.

“They get lost in the gift-drive shuffle,” Murphy said.

“While it may seem like a small act of kindness, it can really make a difference for someone this holiday season,” said Murphy in a press release. “Watching seniors open the gifts they received through Be a Santa to a Senior and seeing the smiles and appreciation on their faces is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.”

PACE School for Girls will make cards for the recipients while gift bags will be decorated by students from Palm Harbor Middle School and Palm Harbor University High School.

For more information, visit BeaStanatoSenior.com or call 727-845-5819.