By Tracy Correa
BAKERSFIELD – It was nearly 100 degrees outside and the sun was shining. But inside the Lowell Place Senior Center, it was like December, or Christmas – in July.
PG&E and its employees celebrated Christmas early on Tuesday (July 31) with a group of seniors at Lowell Place, a residential facility for low-income seniors.
About 82 seniors received gift bags filled with every day necessities, raffle prizes and a personal fan as part of the Christmas in July celebration – with gifts purchased by PG&E employees.
And, PG&E gave another $5,000 to support the effort.
Residents beamed as they took in their gifts.
“I’m lucky today, I never win anything,” said Lowell resident George Ocampo as he looked over all the items he had been given.
The Bakersfield Police Department launched the Christmas for Seniors program five years ago as a way to help low-income, often homebound seniors.
PG&E, employees add mid-year event
Last year, PG&E and its employees stepped in to hold a mid-year giving event, realizing that seniors need help all year long, especially in the summer months.
“It’s unbelievable what PG&E has done in these past two years,” said Sandy Morris, community relations specialist with the Bakersfield Police Department.
Morris said residents at Lowell Place, who live on an average monthly income of $840 a month, all appreciate the gifts. It’s a huge help because these are items they would normally have to buy themselves, she said.
This year, PG&E employees collected $1,600 in cash for the seniors. While the bulk of donations came from within Kern County, $260 came from PG&E employees outside of the area. With the cash donations, PG&E employees went on a shopping spree buying items ranging from toilet paper to laundry detergent and dog food for those seniors who own pets. They also purchased the personal fans.
And for the second year in a row, PG&E presented a $5,000 check to help the police department toward the Christmas for Seniors effort which benefitted 1,480 seniors last year.
PG&E thanked, applauded
At Tuesday’s event, Bakersfield City Council Member Rudy Salas thanked PG&E. “I really appreciate PG&E doing this,” he said, as seniors applauded.
“Without you [PG&E], we couldn’t run this program,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson.
PG&E’s David Christensen, senior program manager for local government partnerships in Kern County, and Terry Scott, executive manager for energy solutions and services, both talked about how the company and its employees have come to embrace the program.
“Employees have really opened up their wallets,” said Christensen. Added Scott: “We do it because we love to do it.”
Representatives from PG&E were also on hand to provide information about the CARE program, which provides a monthly discount on energy bills for income-qualified customers.
Seniors were treated to refreshments before raffle prizes were handed out to winning ticket holders.
Shirley Stirling was stunned when she ripped the holiday wrap from her raffle prize to uncover a vacuum cleaner. “I needed one of those,” she said. Truth be told, she said she won’t use it, but her caregiver will.
The biggest raffle prize – a microwave – went to a surprised Manuel Aguilar. “It’s a very nice present,” he said.
Before leaving, every senior received a bag with a PG&E logo that included basic necessities. “This is all very important stuff,” said Charles Newton, as he clutched his bag.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com