Health

Donated Gifts Brighten Holidays for Vulnerable and At-Risk Residents

Deputy Public Administrator/Guardian Andrew Deeley delivers donated gifts to one of his clients last year. The PA/PG has an annual gift drive that collects holiday donations for vulnerable and at-risk County residents.

Andrew Deeley and Melissa Hubbard darted around the storage room grabbing bags overflowing with gifts neatly wrapped and specially selected for their recipients.

Deeley and Hubbard are deputy public administrator/guardians for the County of San Diego and through the generosity of community members and County employees, the gift bags they’re loading up will be delivered to several County residents who would otherwise probably not receive anything this holiday season.

The County’s Public Administrator/Public Guardian serves as the legally appointed guardian or conservator for people found by the courts to be unable to take care of themselves or their assets. The people are generally older, frail and vulnerable adults who are at risk or have been a victim of abuse or neglect.

Every year the office has a holiday gift drive to collect items to brighten the holidays for their clients. This year, nearly 2,300 blankets, pairs of socks, toiletries and other items were donated to distribute to people served by the office year-round.

“Today we’ll play Santa Claus,” said Deeley. “We’ll do our jobs as well as we do our monthly visits to check on them and see if they need anything.

“But this time we’ll give them gifts on top of it.”

Andrew Deeley, left, and Melissa Hubbard, from the County's Public Administrator/Public Guardian's office, load up their vehicle with donated gifts for vulnerable and at-risk adults.
Andrew Deeley, left, and Melissa Hubbard, from the County’s Public Administrator/Public Guardian’s office, load up their vehicle with donated gifts for vulnerable and at-risk adults.

There are 79 people receiving gifts this year from the holiday drive. PA/PG staff have a wrapping party where they all pitch in to wrap each gift.

“Most of them don’t have family, so this is the only thing they’ll open for Christmas,” said Hubbard. “It’s nice to go in and give them something no strings attached.

“We’re not asking them about their doctor appointments or how things are going otherwise, It’s just ‘Happy holidays!’”

Several County employee groups collected donations and one celebrated her birthday in a very special way. Evangeline Carino, an office assistant in the County’s Child Welfare Services, celebrated her 60th birthday and asked guests to bring a gift for the PA/PG holiday drive. The result was a donation of 428 items.

“We also have a lady that makes blankets every year,” said Hubbard. “She crochets them and she makes about 20 and brings them in. Our clients love them because they were made with love.”

Delivery day for the donations can get pretty emotional for both the recipient and the person delivering the donations.

“Emotions can be high, especially during the holidays when they don’t have family,” said Deeley. “A lady yesterday was crying and gave me a kiss.”

Nearly 2,300 items like blankets, pjs, hats, socks and essential items were donated by the public and County employees to the annual PA/PG holiday gift drive this year.
Nearly 2,300 items like blankets, pjs, hats, socks and essential items were donated by the public and County employees to the annual PA/PG holiday gift drive this year.

“It’s the little things you don’t appreciate until you don’t have it,” added Hubbard. “Getting a bagful of wrapped gifts, they just light up.”

If any of the items aren’t distributed over the holidays, they’re kept for clients’ needs throughout the year or held for the following year’s drive.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact