SMAR Community Relations members meet with some of the senior center representatives to distribute gifts. PICTURED FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Kait Brown, Cassidy Johnson, Allyson Krenke, Dawn Orbits, David Morgan, Linda Gregory, Esmerelda Cline, Courtney Curtis, Patrick Hilwig, Mindy Sowell, David Reifsnyder, Kelly Raley, Annette Matthews, Danielle LeDoux, Connie Gunn, Taylor Hines, Tanya Redding.

HUGHESVILLE, Md. – After months of preparation, the Southern Maryland Association of REALTORS® (SMAR) packed up hundreds of gifts Wednesday that were collected as part of their “Senior Santa” program and went off to spread some holiday cheer to local seniors.

Now entering its 7th year, the SMAR Senior Santa program was designed to collect Christmas presents for people living locally in nursing homes and assisted living facilities who may not see their family members over the holiday season. The gifts were all collected by the SMAR Cares Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves as the charitable giving arm of SMAR.

Barbara Burton, Activity Director for The Hermitage at Solomons, excited to see her car packed with gifts for residents at her facility.

This year, SMAR Cares was tasked with collecting gifts for 487 seniors, over 2.5 times more than they collected in 2020. The gift requests ranged from fuzzy socks and candy to printers and even computers. But that was still no problem for our community.

Within three weeks, SMAR Cares had gotten all 487 seniors adopted. The Foundation is estimating that roughly 40% of adoptions that were made this year were made by community members not affiliated with SMAR.

Dawn Orbits unloads gifts at the Calvert County Nursing Center in Prince Frederick.

“We were in awe of the community support for this year’s program,” SMAR Cares Director Connie Gunn explained. “Many local businesses helped make this happen with monetary donations, with some adopting over 10 seniors themselves and having employees go out and shop for them. We even had one active-duty military member up at Andrew’s Air Force Base who heard about our program on Facebook and got her whole unit to participate with donations. It really has been amazing to see.”

In addition to the gifts, several other people made monetary donations which allowed SMAR to increase the number of gifts distributed. Well over 550 gift bags were collected, at an estimated value of $24,910.

Gifts for several of the facilities that were being housed in the SMAR Classroom.

“This was a massive success for our organization, but an even greater success for Southern Maryland,” SMAR Past President and the chairwoman of SMAR Cares Tanya Redding said. “Our members, affiliates, and even community members with no ties to our organization stepped up to help make this a great Christmas for all these seniors. We exceeded our goals and set another record for us to break next year.”

The facilities that gifts were collected for included: The Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, St. Mary’s Nursing Center, Chesapeake Shores, Solomons Nursing Home, Calvert County Nursing Home, Sage Point, Fenwick Landing, Genesis Waldorf, Complete Care at La Plata, Assisted Living at Hawkins Gate, The Hermitage at Solomons, and The Charleston Senior Community.

SMAR Cares Director Connie Gunn looks over additional gifts that were collected.

Simultaneously to the Senior Santa program, SMAR Cares collected over 150 coats and roughly 1,200 pounds of nonperishable food items for food banks and other various organizations around southern Maryland. Next on the schedule, The Foundation will be hosting a casino night fundraiser in March of 2022 that will benefit SMAR Cares.

Gifts collected to be taken to the St. Mary’s Nursing Center in Leonardtown.

“SMAR members give back to the communities they serve professionally and in which they live,” SMAR President Gregg G. Kantak said. “From annual food drives to coat drives to the immensely successful Senior Santa, SMAR members serve as a shining example of the power of giving and sharing.”

More about the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors® and SMAR Cares:
The Southern Maryland Association of Realtors® represents the largest trade organization in the southern Maryland region, advocating on behalf of over 1800 members and affiliates. SMAR advocates for property rights and provides information regarding the local real estate market.

In 2020, the Board of Directors created the SMAR Cares Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to provide grants and assistance to association members, housing-related and community-related organizations that serve southern Maryland.