Jorja Boller, 10, of Beatrice, Nebraska, a fifth-grader at Stoddard Elementary School, created a charity that distributes gift bags to residents of several retirement homes every year at Christmastime. Jorja has been volunteering at Beatrice Good Samaritan Center since she was 5 years old, and still spends 12-20 hours a month there. Several years ago, she wanted to make sure one of the residents received a Christmas gift, so she set up a lemonade stand to raise money. But as Christmas drew closer, Jorja decided she couldn’t just do this for one resident; she had to give presents to everyone at the nursing home. “There are many people who don’t get visited often,” she explained. “It can be very lonely.” Her desire, she said, is to “make sure that at Christmastime no one is left out.”
The first year, Jorja’s family and the staff at the Good Samaritan Center helped her collect enough money and other donations to give out 108 gift bags. “It was so fun delivering them the week of Christmas and giving lots of hugs,” she said. The next year, she named her project “Gifts for Grands,” sold lemonade to raise funds and collected gift cards at her birthday party. Then her 4-H club joined the effort, helping Jorja conduct bake sales, trash pickups and other fundraisers; make greeting cards; and assemble gift bags. When Christmas comes, they load up a big cart and pass out bags while walking through the halls of the nursing homes wearing Santa Claus hats. Jorja expected to deliver 400 gift bags in seven different retirement facilities this past Christmas, and is now helping a girl in Oklahoma start her own “Gifts for Grands” chapter there. In addition to her work with her gift bag charity, Jorja also works with local Special Olympics swimmers, helping people with disabilities learn to swim and have fun in the water.