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North Hills Monthly

Presents for Patients Celebrates Season of Giving

Nov 01, 2016 06:47AM ● By Erica Cebzanov

Many people recognize the importance of giving back during the holidays, and one way to help others is to add a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility to your holiday gift list. You can do this through the Presents for Patients program, which is now celebrating its 33rd season.

St. Barnabas Health System President William V. Day founded Presents for Patients in 1984 to help patients combat the loneliness they often feel during the holidays by providing them with a gift and a visitor. St. Barnabas is a continuum of care health system featuring retirement communities, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, home care, hospice, rehabilitation therapy and an outpatient medical center.

Donors can access the program’s website to register and purchase gifts for patients residing at more than 200 participating facilities in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and surrounding counties. A donor can simply select facilities in his or her area and call to make arrangements to visit and deliver gifts to a patient or group of patients, or choose gifts through the Presents for Patients website and have the gifts delivered directly to the patients. There are gift options in all price ranges.

Donors may also opt to have the gifts shipped to their own homes or businesses so that they can deliver the gifts in person. “If a business or group is planning a gift drive, the most common gift requests are socks, slippers, sweaters, blankets and Steelers’, Pirates’ and Penguins'-themed sweatshirts,” said Shelli Sommariva, St. Barnaba Charities’ director of development. 

“The visit is the real gift, and the friendships created are priceless,” she added. “One year a young girl who had recently lost her grandfather wanted to adopt a grandfather through Presents for Patients. They visited throughout the year and created a lovely friendship.” 

Individuals and families deliver packages and spend time with residents. Group visits often include carols and refreshments. Some donors have even brought their pets along to help spread extra holiday cheer.

Hundreds of schools, scouting troops, churches and companies such as AARP, Bayer HealthCare, Google, De La Torre Orthotics and Prosthetics, James Austin Company and the Rich-Mar Rotary have helped Presents for Patients provide more than 500,000 gifts over the years. Since 1985, television station WPXI has served as a sponsor—station Vice President and General Manager Ray Carter and his wife Cathy are this year’s Presents for Patients’ honorary chairpersons.

Presents for Patients welcomes people of all faiths to provide visits and gifts. “While the program is most popular during the winter holidays, our goal is for the campaign to continue throughout the year as patients celebrate milestones and holidays like birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Veterans Day,” said Sommariva.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and personal 

care homes may enroll their residents in the free 

Presents for Patients program.

For more information, visit or call 724-443-0011.