Smart Solutions: Ideas to offer comfort and welcome to others

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

While basking in the afterglow of gratitude from Thanksgiving, I’m hoping to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate who may be feeling isolated or displaced or just plain down and out.

A welcome gift for a new neighbor can be as simple as a popcorn container with a sweet message.

When I received an email from the Special Services Department in my community with an opportunity to participate in their Adopt a Senior Holiday Program, I thought it was a great idea. While children often remain the focus of holiday donations for good reason, this can become a particularly difficult time of year for the elderly.

So, I opted to “adopt” and shop for two women, one for myself and one for my daughter. Their personal stories were touching and the items on their wish lists were simple and sweet. In addition, their requests serve as a reminder that the basics are all we need to get by, like a warm throw, some holiday cookies and a little hand cream, just a few of the things that make the place where you happen to lay your head a little more comforting.

Another suggestion, from the program coordinator, was to put the wrapped gifts inside a basket or tote that the recipients could use in the future.

I am always trying to remind my daughter that she has the power to make someone’s day. Still, she sounded a little skeptical at first when I explained my intentions. When we had another discussion before heading out to look for some of the items on their lists, I discovered that my daughter thought we were “adopting” high school seniors, which didn’t make much sense to her.

Once she realized the program was designed to support some of the senior citizens in our community, she was on board.

Though I’m happy to contribute to charities at holiday events like the ones I’ve attended lately where retailers raised money for different causes, I feel a special connection to the women we’ve “adopted” because we know a little bit about them and their likes.

I also feel a strong connection to others who are in need in our community which is why my daughter participates in the Goodfellows Canned Food Drive this month through her school. Some of her teachers get creative with incentives to encourage students to increase the number of cans.

Another email I received this month that came from our condo board contained some information about a Social Committee and a Welcome Committee being formed in our neighborhood. With a higher turnover of homes happening in many subdivisions, there can be a lack of connection and familiarity that creates a greater distance between those who live closest to us.

So, I hope to get involved in some way to make others feel more at home, whether that means extending a welcome to someone new or getting to know some others a little better. As I try to remind my daughter, we are very fortunate to have a roof over our heads and the most amazing neighbors. I want to do my best to make others feel the same by reaching out to those around me.

For information on the popcorn bucket shown, go to 

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at