By Owen Sexton / firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to holiday donations, most people think of toy drives, but children aren’t the only ones in need of support.
The Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging assists seniors and those living with disabilities by connecting them with social and health services to support them in staying in their homes. During the holiday season, the agency produces a wishlist for its clients to allow donors to purchase and send gifts to them.
Due to COVID-19, this year, like last year, the agency is simply asking for monetary donations via PayPal or checks by mail.
“We are unable to accept packages and physical goods. We know many of our loyal supporters enjoy shopping for the clients you chose, but we hope you can still find joy in giving through a thoughtful donation,” said Marla Lund, Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging information and assistance specialist.
The Chronicle sat down with one client, 57-year-old Leslie Mathews, of Morton, to share her story. Originally from Detroit, Mathews was raised on the West Coast after her family moved to California when she was 3. She eventually moved to
Washington by the time she attended high school in Shelton.
She now resides in Morton with an old high school friend, Jeff Martin, also 57, who is also her significant other. While both are disabled, they act as each other’s caregivers, helping when and where they can. They not only went to high school together but also worked together in the Salvation Army.
They live together in a trailer with their three small dogs. Mathews does diamond paint artwork in her free time.
Living in Morton allows Mathews to remain close to family. She has endured injuries and a knee replacement while Martin has suffered from a stroke and multiple heart attacks.
“I’ve been a caregiver all my life, but I’ve never dealt with it on such a personal level besides my family,” Mathews said.
Before suffering her falls and subsequent injuries, Mathews worked as a caregiver and was a certified nursing assistant.
Despite having been a caregiver before getting injured, Mathews said it has taken some adjustment to get used to needing care herself, but working with Martin she is able to handle it. The Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging also provides an additional caregiver to her who visits weekly.
“Dealing with a caregiver has been extremely hard for me because I’m not used to letting someone come into my home that I don’t know, let alone someone that’s doing the job that I should be doing,” said Mathews.
That hasn’t been the only struggle she’s faced in adjusting to life with disabilities.
The Stigma of Asking for Help
Having a disability often means the loss of independence, which is a challenge for anyone, especially in America where a lack of independence can be seen as a sign of weakness or failure. Mathews said because of that, it is hard to ask for help and she feels like a burden.
“With all the caregiving I’ve done, it is so hard for the elder community to give up their independence. When I couldn’t drive and I had to rely on other people to drive my car, it was driving me up the wall because it’s just hard to rely on other people,” Mathews said.
It hasn’t just been Mathews being hard on herself for her loss of independence though, as the lens many use to view people with disabilities creates negative stigmas many are forced to live with even if the stigma doesn’t actually apply.
“I just wish the world would be a little bit kinder and have more understanding for the elderly and the people who have disabilities. You might not see it, it might not be apparent, but it’s there. I’m afraid to park in handicap parking because people might see me sitting in the car because he (Martin) is the one who goes in the store and does all the walking for me,” said Mathews.
She has a walker but said it’s discouraging to use it because walking is still physically exhausting. In a society where being handicapped opens you up to judgment for needing help, it also opens one up to being judged for using that help, she said.
“You get it a lot, people asking, ‘Why are you parked in a handicapped spot, you’re walking fine?’” Martin added.
According to Mathews, that has been one of the biggest struggles in adjusting to living life with disabilities.
“People look at me like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Well, if you knew the struggles I’ve had you wouldn’t have to ask that. And it shouldn’t matter. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to utilize something if I don’t need it,” said Mathews.
Because of all of this, Mathews explained her wish list item was a simple one that couldn’t be bought in stores.
“Kindness. Just, people being kind to one another,” Mathews said.
While kindness is a gift that can be given for free, those still interested in donating to Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging wishlist clients can choose one from this list.
To donate, visit https://www.lmtaaa.org/LOH for the PayPal link, and remember to include the client number in the “Write a Note” section. Checks and gift cards can be mailed to the agency at 2404 Heritage Court SW, Olympia, WA 98502. Make sure to include a note listing the desired client number.
Donations are tax-deductible and will be accepted through Friday, Dec. 16. For more information, contact Lund at 360-748-2524, ext. 201.
Client #1 is a man in his 30s who has health and emotional issues and recently experienced the loss of his mother, who was his great supporter. What helps him grieve and keep purpose is his artwork. He would appreciate a donation to purchase art supplies and perhaps some new sweats and personal hygiene products.
Client #2 has limited vision with other health challenges, and loves all kinds of art. She would like to have a gift card to purchase supplies to create more beautiful things and maybe enough for some new clothes as well.
Client #3 is a man in his 50s who lives alone, has no family and has several health and emotional issues. He loves music and watching documentaries. His wish this holiday season is to purchase some toiletries, cleaning supplies and to restock his kitchen.
Client #4 is in her early 60s who lives alone, has had a stroke and other health issues. She likes to keep her hands busy and mind challenged by embroidering and crocheting. She would like a gift card to purchase some basic toiletries, cleaning supplies and perhaps enough for a holiday dinner. She wishes you a fine holiday.
Client #5 is in her 80s and lives in her own home with her dog and enjoys watching the critters outside her window, especially the birds. Her request is for a gift card to purchase some treats and toys for her dog and some basic household supplies.
Client #6 is a man in his early 60s and a recent widower. He struggles daily with chronic health conditions but enjoys sitting outside with his dogs. He would appreciate a gift card to purchase a new pair of shoes and pants.
Client #7 is in his late 60s and struggles with mental health issues. He recently moved into his own apartment and would like a gift card to purchase a much-needed toaster and some headphones to assist his hearing.
Client #8 is in his early 40s and has multiple health issues which require a special diet. He would appreciate a gift card to purchase specific foods and perhaps some personal items.
Client #9 is a 52-year-old woman with limited use of her hands who lives with her disabled son. Despite her physical limitations she manages to volunteer on behalf of people living with mental health issues. Her limited income makes it hard for her to meet her basic needs and would very much appreciate a gift card to purchase some towels and bedding for Christmas.
Client #10 is a woman who had a very active career before but now has limited mobility due to a disability. She lives alone and relies on her caregivers to be as independent as possible. She would love a gift card to purchase some warm winter clothes including a coat, hat and gloves.
Client #11 is in her 60s, has no family in her life and is grateful to her friend from whom she rents a room. She enjoys doing bead work and decorating baskets. She would appreciate a gift card to purchase some craft supplies and maybe a warm coat.
Client #12 is a man in his early 70s who lives alone and does not have any family in Washington. His passions are bowling and church. He would love a gift card to purchase some new tennis shoes, sweatshirts and a nice shirt to wear to church. He offers his blessings for the season.
Client #13 is a man in his 20s who has neurological and metabolic disorders and resides with his mother who also has a disability. An avid video player, he is looking forward to starting his first job and would like help purchasing some new work clothes and shoes.
Client #14 is a man in his mid-60s who lives alone and has cardiac issues. This holiday he would like a gift card to help purchase a new mattress after his was damaged. He added there is nothing like starting the day off with a good night’s sleep.
Client #15 is a woman in her 60s who lives in her own apartment and has neurological and cardiac issues. Her wish is for a gift card to purchase some new bedding. She wishes you a good holiday.
Client #16 is a man who lives with his dog in rural Lewis County. A recent illness left him unable to work and enjoy the outdoors. He would like a gift card to purchase some supplies for his home and new winter clothes to help him get outside again when his body is up to it.
Client #17 is a woman in her 50s who has several health conditions and lives alone in an older trailer. She would like a gift card to help purchase some warmer clothes and some blankets for the upcoming winter months.
Client #18 is a woman in her early 80s who lives alone, except for her cat and bird. She has several chronic health conditions that are painful. She would like a gift card to help her purchase some new blankets and perhaps a holiday meal. She thanks you in advance.
Client #19 is a woman in her early 80s who lives on her own with severe health issues, including limited vision. Her wish this holiday is for a gift card to purchase some cleaning supplies, plates and cups.
Client #20 is a woman in her early 60s who has several health conditions but lives alone in her rural home with some help. She would appreciate a gift card to purchase a new winter jacket and replace some old, worn-out blankets.
Client #21 is a man in his mid 60s who has several debilitating health conditions. After years of living in a travel trailer at a family member’s home, he is getting an apartment. He would be grateful for a gift card to purchase some household essentials and maybe a wreath for his front door.
Client #22 is a female in her late 50s who lives with family members. A gift card would help with some of her needs. She needs extra food to help feed teenagers that have come to live with her. She needs waterproof shoes that slip on easily and a warm coat and socks. She is on a fixed income and has challenging health issues.
Client #23 shares his living quarters. He was in a traumatic accident and now struggles with several health conditions which make it difficult for him to make meals, clean and get to appointments. His pain makes daily tasks more difficult. He would appreciate a donation to help him buy new bedding, winter clothes and household items.
Client #24 is in her mid 70s with multiple chronic health issues. She is involved in her church and loves her community. She lives alone. She had some extremely hard times last year. Her home burned down and finding a new place to live and putting the pieces back together has been a struggle, but she has persevered. A gift card to purchase a few necessities for her new home would be appreciated.
Client #25 is in his late 70s and lives alone. He has no family and has a very limited income. He relies on his caregiver for companionship and assistance. With the donation of a gift card, he would like to get some kitchen utensils, cookware and he’d benefit from some warm clothes.
Client #26 is a man in his late 60s who has health and emotional issues who recently lost all of his possessions due to a fire in a shared living situation. He would be grateful for a gift card to replace some clothing items and be able to get a warm winter jacket and blanket.
Client #27 is a woman in her late 30s who has an inflammatory disorder with emotional challenges and recently lost everything she owns due to a fire in a shared living situation. She would love a gift card to get a warm winter jacket and a comfy blanket and replace some clothing items.