This holiday season, Audra Costa hopes to provide a little bit of happiness to a portion of the population she feels is forgotten at this time of year; the elderly in nursing homes.
For the third year, Costa, a Warwick resident, is gathering monetary donations from friends, family and local businesses to provide small gifts to the women living at Briarcliffe Manor nursing home in Johnston, a project she calls Adopt A Grandparent Charity Event. A Mary Kay representative, Costa uses donations to purchase Mary Kay hand and foot creams for the women, and she delivers the gifts herself, spending a few hours on Christmas Eve with these individuals who may not have any family of their own.
“Everyone does something for the kids or for people with cancer, which I understand,” said Costa. “But no one’s thinking of the older people.”
Costa is working with Briarcliffe because she is from Johnston and found the staff there to be easy to work with; she called a number of homes in Warwick but many were unwilling to have her come in or would not let her take pictures to document the event.
In her first “Adopt-A-Grandparent,” Costa collected donations from family members and friends only, and was only able to provide a few gifts. Last year, she reached out to local businesses and was able to provide gifts for 40 women. This year, she is starting early in the hopes of doubling or even tripling that number.
“I don’t want to go in with just a few gifts. I want to go in with something for everyone,” said Costa.
She is working with the staff at Briarcliffe to determine just how many residents she should bring gifts for; if she exceeds that number, she will find another location to donate the remaining gifts.
Costa also admits that because she only provides the small hand and foot creams, the male populations of the home are not included.
“I haven’t touched upon the men yet,” said Costa, explaining she is trying to come up with a comparable gift for men but because she uses her connections at Mary Kay, it is difficult.
Costa says part of the joy she gets out of this project is seeing the smile on the women’s faces and having the chance to spend time with them talking.
“I remember this one woman. She was so happy and all I gave her was a hand or foot cream,” said Costa, recalling the woman hugging her and asking if she wanted to stay and play a card game with her; Costa happily obliged. “That’s why I do it.”
Costa also sees it as a way to give back to the generation who gave her so much.
“They don’t get anything. They’re the reason we’re here; they are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts,” said Costa.
Costa began visiting local businesses in Warwick last week to explain the project and collect donations. She has a number of local businesses on board so far, but also a few friends. Participating businesses are The Food Chalet, Mousie’s Deli, Hairport Salon, Sun Center Tanning, Chill Out Loud frozen yogurt, Classy Nails, Don’s Pizza, Five Guys Burger and Fries, Sukhy’s, Jonny Signs, Double D Locks, Inc., Bob Fontaine Photography, Nailz to Tailz, Best Cleaners, Sam’s Automotive, Family Treasures, McCrudden’s Radiator Repair, Ocean Nails, Dan’s Music Center, Wheelock Insurance Agency, Governor Francis Inn, Kerry’s Warwick Photo, Timmy’s Family Restaurant and Papi’s Tacos.
When she goes into a business, Costa immediately asks to speak to an owner or manager and explains the program. If they are willing to donate $20, she is able to provide two women with a gift (either a hand or foot cream). She explained that sometimes the owner donates on behalf of the business, or a number of employees donate on their own behalf.
If the business cannot give money but would like to participate, Costa says she will bring a basket or gift donation for an individual on the business’ behalf. She does not accept gift cards however because they cannot be used by the women living in the nursing home.
Costa, who works at Webster Bank, admits that some businesses are skeptical, worrying that she is scamming them. She explains that is not the case, and will take pictures at the event to bring back to the businesses to see the woman they provided a gift for; Costa actually addresses each gift to be from the owner or individual from the business, so they get the credit and thanks they deserve.
“I am hoping it gets big enough that I don’t have that issue anymore,” explained Costa. “I’m hoping to make it a real charity one day.”
For more information or to donate to the “Adopt A Grandparent” project, contact Costa by email at acosta1981@Marykay.