A group of local elementary students last week put the finishing touches on a community service project to help brighten the holidays for chronically ill senior citizens from around the Columbus area.

A group of local elementary students last week put the finishing touches on a community service project to help brighten the holidays for chronically ill senior citizens from around the Columbus area.

For the past three years, students at Windermere Elementary School have taken on a number of projects aimed at giving back to the community and learning the importance of helping others.

Those efforts have included daily Meals on Wheels deliveries to senior citizens throughout Upper Arlington and surrounding communities, a school program headed up by Windermere parent Stori Rex.

Last Friday, Rex led a project in which Windermere second- and fourth-graders adopted more than 100 senior citizens for the holidays through Lifecare Alliance's Help at Home program.

The nonprofit agency's Help at Home program provides homemaking personal care services to chronically ill adults to help them maintain independent living in their own homes.

The Windermere students took "wish lists" from senior citizens involved in the program, then collected holiday gifts such as candles, blankets, robes and books the seniors had requested.

Last Friday, the students completed handmade, personalized cards and joined parent volunteers who helped wrap gifts to be delivered in time for Christmas.

Rex is the parent of two children who attend Windermere: son Lakin is a fourth-grader and daughter Ivy is in second grade. She said she hoped the project would help seniors who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts, and also facilitate classroom lessons about aging.

The project also ties in with the service learning component of the students' holiday party.

"What better way to show the kids they change over time, but that you still have wishes," Rex said. "The outcome has been crazy. We're going to answer at least 100, maybe 120 wishes."

In addition to fulfilling a wish, students and their parents collected items such as toothpaste and laundry detergent to distribute, and teachers and staff at Windermere donated gift bags for the deliveries.

"These items will go to people all over the Columbus area," Rex said. "They're part of the Help at Home program and they've all been pre-screened. We know the need is there."

The need isn't just practical or physical, according to Lifecare Alliance's Help at Home Director Nadlin Antwi.

She said the gifts provide an emotional boost.

"My clients oftentimes are missed and forgotten about," Antwi said. "For someone to recognize them and touch them is just amazing."

She said it's difficult even for her to explain the significance of the gesture and how it affects clients who frequently don't have a wealth of interaction with others.

"Paying it forward in such a way is just something," she said. "What a wonderful thing this is for our clients. These kids are amazing, and Stori is even more amazing. Her energy level and her enthusiasm are just awesome."

Rex said the holiday gift project, as well as Meals on Wheels and other community service lessons being taught at Windermere, are instilling perspective in students. She said that ranges from recognizing people come from myriad backgrounds, have more or less fortune and that it's always important to help others.

"They realize that the world is bigger than them and that there are senior citizens -- and not just children -- that have needs," Rex said.