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Regional program delivers gifts to needy seniors

POCA, W.Va. -- Jacob Duchaine walked up to the porch of a square white house with green shutters as Mary Painter waited to greet him."Thank you so much. We really appreciate this," she said as Duchaine handed her a large white bag with "To: John and Mary Painter" written across the side.Painter, 64, and her husband live in Black Betsy, but the two don't own a car and have trouble getting their own groceries. That's why Putnam Aging, a nonprofit agency for senior citizens in Putnam and its surrounding counties, delivers meals to the Painters six days a week."They have medical transportation for us, too, so that we can go to the doctor. That makes it nice," she said.Putnam Aging has provided in-home care and services to the elderly for more than 30 years, but one of its more recent initiatives is bringing Christmas cheer to older people around the region. Duchaine, the public relations specialist for Putnam Aging, said presents for those the agency serves are made possible through West Virginia Senior Santa, a regional organization that collects items and donations for the elderly, and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars office, as well as Dr. Bridget Stevens, a Dunbar dentist who developed the idea eight years ago."Our program attempts to provide a variety of services because our seniors are important," Duchaine said. "Just because they've aged doesn't mean they stop being valuable members of our society."The agency's caregivers ordinarily bring gifts to their patients, but Duchaine said he wanted to get out and help, and delivered several presents Monday morning in Poca and Black Betsy. Putnam Aging received about 110 gifts from area organizations this year, and 50 more were donated to the senior center in Hurricane."We provide some important services, and this is just another one of those, especially at such a difficult time of year for the elderly -- winter," he said.
Duchaine said seniors are referred to Putnam Aging in a number of ways, and can call the agency if they feel they are eligible for on of its programs. Putnam Aging has 19 "nutrition sites" across the region, including many senior centers, and serves more than 6,300 meals every month."Making sure seniors are taken care of in this area is important, so we try to provide a lot of different things -- nutrition, homecare, spotting elder abuse, transportation to the doctor or to the store," he said. "We also have a chore program that can help with doing day-to-day chores, like mowing their grass, that they can't do anymore."The agency is funded through grants and donations, as well as Medicare and Medicaid for those who are eligible. The seniors who receive gifts through Putnam Aging do not need to be a client -- they can be referred by a friend, relative, senior center worker, or inquire themselves, Duchaine said."It's a variety of people, especially those who are financially disadvantaged or homebound," he said.Virginia Cochran, of Poca, said she has never used Putnam Aging's services before, but regularly visits her local senior center, where the director referred her to the agency's partnership with WV Senior Santa."I didn't make a list," Cochran said. "But I'm sure they knew what I needed."For Duchaine, the gift program is a vital part of helping seniors to feel safe and cared for. Those interested in the program or who know a senior citizen who might benefit from one of Putnam Aging's programs can call 304-755-2385 or visit
Reach Lydia Nuzum at or 304-348-5189. 
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