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Shoebox campaign helps more than 700 local seniors

Girl Scouts and volunteers deliver hundreds of gift boxes to shut-ins and those on assisted living

Posted: January 1, 2009 6:03 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Two Brownies from Troop 68, left, help distribute gift-filled shoeboxes to seniors.

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"This is a free gift for you from the GRANDS Project" was the refrain as local Girl Scouts and Santa Clarita volunteers delivered more than 700 shoe boxes of blessings to local seniors who were either shut-ins or residing in an assisted living home here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The boxes, hand-decorated with a Thanksgiving holiday theme, were filled with $5 gift certificates, hard candies, small canned meats, cookies, tea bags and coffee singles, hand-made crafts, pens, pencils, puzzles, and other games.

Some of the boxes even had decorative picture frames and local movie tickets.

The acronym GRANDS stands for "giving respect and nurturing deserving seniors" and that's just what the project did.

According to Gerri McCorkle, a local resident and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who is the idea woman behind the project, there are more than 8,000 senior citizens who live in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Many of them live alone and have little or no interaction with the outside world.

"GRANDS, which just celebrated its first anniversary in the Santa Clarita Valley, is a nonprofit organization designed to create a connection between the community and the senior citizens of the SCV," McCorkle said. "The inspiration for GRANDS came from Randy Cressall of the Valenica AutoSpa, who annually collects toys for the Sheriff's Toy Drive, began collecting presents for senior citizens as well. The senior gifts were given out just as the toys from the toy drive were.

"Cressall would often tell me seniors were forgotten in the SCV and as a Sheriff Deputy I come in contact with seniors. Many seniors live out here without family and are lonely.

Many are close to the poverty level. Even these little acts (gift boxes) brighten their day."

McCorkle kicked off this year's project with an e-mail blast to Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and preschools, asking for their support in creating the boxes. The Valencia AutoSpa and the Sheriff Department were drop off points for the boxes of blessing.

"Even AutoSpa customers started bringing in boxes," Cressall said. "The hard work of the community allowed 700 boxes of blessings to be delivered, that was 200 more than last year. It's exciting when our community demonstrates the true spirit of charity and reaches out to others.

"This project is especially important because it not only teaches youth the spirit of giving, it teaches service to an older generation," Cressall said.

"Most of the boxes stayed in the Santa Clarita Valley and were distributed to the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, the Castaic Senior Center, the SCV Senior Center Meals on Wheels program, and senior residential living centers across the SCV," said McCorkle.

"Fifty of the boxes were delivered to seniors who lost their homes in the Sylmar Oakridge mobile home fire.

One of the recipients was a 102-year-old woman living in an assisted living home in the SCV."

According GRANDS board member Corinn Miklosovic, GRANDS serves an even a higher purpose than the gift giving to help make seniors feel better. Miklosovic said GRANDS connects kids and seniors.

"We wanted to bring the community together to help seniors, but also the youth. Hence, the involvement of Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts," said Miklosovic.

"In our fast-paced society children often grow up without their grandparents being close-by. In many cases we've lost the closeness.

Part of our hope is to be able to connect these two very important entities (seniors and children)."

She added that GRANDS can help young people get the community service hours they may need for various service projects as well."

The current GRANDS board is made up of Corinn Miklosovic, Jan Fear, Randy Cressall, Stephanie Weiss, and Gerri McCorkle.

Those interested in joining the GRANDS board may contact Gerri McCorkle at (661) 618-2629.

For further information about GRANDS, call Corinn Miklosovic at (661) 607-2579 or Jan Fear at (661) 299-1551.


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