Gene Tracy and Kevin Matthews pose together. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Gene Tracy and Kevin Matthews pose together. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – For the eighth year in a row, Gene Tracy is heading up the annual “Snowflakes for seniors” Christmas campaign, sponsored through his business, Tracy’s Auction, in Van Wert. Hundreds of personal and useful items are collected, boxed and taken to the elderly in area nursing homes. In addition, through the Council on Aging, the Christmas bags are distributed to many homebound in the local area.

“When I took over the flea market for dad in 2011, I wanted to do something that was community involved,” said Tracy. “I was born and raised here in Van Wert County. They would tell me about residents in nursing homes who didn’t have anyone come around for them during the holidays.”

Tracy said that he recalls driving past the nursing homes where his grandparents were residents.

“It didn’t happen as often as I wanted it to,” said Tracy. “It began to hit me how few people visit these people and how lonely they can get, especially during the holidays.

“Because of knowing of many situations like this, I thought of ‘Snowflakes for Seniors,’” continued Tracy. “The seniors pay all of the money for room, board and food, but many of them don’t get anything for Christmas.”

Tracy emphasized that many of the seniors are on a very limited budget. He noted that many of them can’t afford simple needs such as lip balms, shampoo, Kleenex and other personal items.

“We decided to partner with the Council on Aging in reaching out to those in nursing homes and homebound that couldn’t get out,” continued Tracy.

Kevin Matthews, executive director of the Council on Aging, said that the council reaches out to homebound. He noted that when Tracy and him talked about joining hands for this project, he quickly identified people in their homes who were lonely and in some cases, couldn’t get out to obtain the personal items that they need.

“There are a lot of places in Van Wert where people can’t even get out to get toilet paper,” said Matthews. “When we started this eight years ago, we had 25-30 people that we reached out to the first year,” observed Matthews. “Now we have over 100 that we reach out to just through the Council on Aging.”

Tracy said there are two nursing homes with a combined total of 200 people that can be reached out to.

“There are 300 people right there and I know that there are more than that in the community that can be reached out to,” added Tracy.

Tracy praised the work of Julie Lang for organizing special moments to draw the event together. One of the biggest will be on Nov. 23 when there will be a Christmas tree lighting and Christmas program at the auction place for anyone that would like to attend, said Tracy.

Tracy said that those who wish to donate items for the give-away can take them to the auction house, Council on Aging or local churches that are participating in the cause.

Among those items that are deeply appreciated are crossword books, word search books, lip balms, hand lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, soap and other personal items.

Tracy recalls the time that a gift was dropped off to a lonely lady in her home. She immediately started to cry, Tracy said.

“She told us that the special gift was the only one she was going to get that year,” said Tracy.

“We see that more than people would realize,” said Matthews.