Barbara Seiber of Bremerton, Wash., is a believer. She believes that amid a season filled with busy schedules and long to-do lists, love, generosity and devotion still prevail. She believes that one person, reaching out to another, can make all the difference in combating pain, loneliness and fear. She believes that in giving you receive. And she believes in Santa Claus!
“The Christmas spirit is contagious, it is meant to be shared,” says Barbara, a longtime Clear Creek Dentistry patient. “So when my husband, Shawn, suggested volunteering for The Salvation Army it was a no-brainer. It gives a purpose to our season, and I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmastime each year!”
The Seibers, who both work full-time jobs in other capacities, give up three hours a night, six nights a week – from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve – to serve as supervisors of the accounting operations at the Kitsap branch of The Salvation Army. “We’ve been doing this for nine years and it has become our tradition. We volunteer instead of attending many holiday events out there. It really is the way we celebrate Christmas together,” she said. “We go in about 7 p.m. to receive the kettles from the 38 locations between Kingston and Port Orchard, as well as a few from Belfair. My husband begins counting change, while I verify the bills counted by 10 different people each evening. Once all the money has been counted and recorded, we make the day’s bank deposit.”
This is a job that can only be done by “the most trustworthy, dependable and diligent people,” explains Major Scott Ramsey of the Bremerton Corps. “We’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars that was received and counted, $36,000 in change alone, during the Christmas season last year. I could not have just anyone handling that or overseeing the 300 volunteer counters each season. We are so grateful for the hundreds of unpaid hours the Seibers give because if we had to hire someone to manage all that, as some branches of The Salvation Army do, it would significantly eat into the local budget we have to disperse back to those in need in Kitsap County. Barbara and Shawn are a wonderful team that have been quietly and consistently caring for their community through their dedicated service.”
Through her workplace, Home Instead Senior Care, Barbara helped develop a local company giving program to ensure the “forgotten generation” is remembered each Christmas. In 2008, she launched “Be a Santa to a Senior” in Kitsap County. “We had seen the need firsthand in nursing homes in our area, so who better to respond than us.”
Barbara starts making her list, checking it twice, in the fall of each year as she reaches out to activities directors at the 10 state facilities in Kitsap County, requesting the names of the 20 neediest seniors in their care. “I want to know who has no family, no one to visit them, let alone bring them gifts at the holidays. I then place an ad in the newspaper calling for sponsors and I’ve never been disappointed. In fact, the response has been overwhelming – on both ends!” she said.
The first year Barbara delivered these specially matched gifts to seniors she received a letter back from a nursing home resident named Hazel. It read: “Since no one asked me if I’d been naughty or nice, I expected a lump of coal in my stocking. Instead, I was presented with a shopping bag of many well-chosen gifts. I now believe in Santa Claus again (and may begin to believe in the Easter Bunny again, too!) A sincere thanks.”
Barbara has hung on to Hazel’s note because it simply sums up what her Santa program is all about. “When the gifts start pouring into our office you can see Christmas in their eyes of the givers,” she said. “While I don’t always get to personally see each gift’s outcome, I am completely fulfilled as I deliver those presents to each of the nursing homes, knowing that someone has thought hard about someone else’s needs this year. I feel grateful I get to be the facilitator of those packages of love. I visualize Hazel, her smile when she realizes she has not been forgotten, and the moment when loneliness is replaced with pure joy.”
This week Barbara’s deliveries begin to 173 elderly individuals in our community. Next year she hopes to increase the number she can serve. Individuals interested in sponsoring a local senior, through either a gift or donation to the program, can contact Barbara at Home Instead Senior Care, 840 Callahan Dr. Suite C, Bremerton, WA 98311 or by calling (360) 782-4663.