ERIE, Illinois — What were you doing when you were 12 years old? Well at that ripe young age, Kimberly Teats-Garrison was starting Together We Share Together We Care, a program to help senior citizens.
Every week, Teats would go to the nursing home with her grandmother to visit her great-grandmother. While she was there she noticed that some residents never had any visitors.
Teats' mom, Jill, said she quickly made it her business to befriend as many residents as she could. She nominated her daughter for the Pay It Forward Award.
"They would walk in the door, Kim and my mother," Jill said. "Kim would go off to meet all of her friends, and my mom would go to see my grandma and a couple of other people. Kim would make her rounds and then end up back with my grandma and my mom."
Over the holidays, Kim wanted to find a way to give gifts to everyone that she befriended. She said it's not so much about the gifts. It's about making sure people know that they are not forgotten.
Over the years her program grew. December marked her 15th year of handing out gifts to elderly people in the Quad Cities region. About 400 gift bags were handed out, each including about $25 worth of items. Items in the bags include personal hygiene products, snacks, activities and games.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim said it became especially important to do something special for people because of the lockdowns.
"I think more people came to realize who was in these homes and who was being forgotten" Kim said. "It was more in light, and a lot more people were like, 'I think this is cool,' and 'Let me help you with this.'"
Kim said a lot of her success with the program was credited to donors. They include CGH Medical Center, who donates the bags and some items for inside them. Kim said her church also provides a lot of the items, and people from the community also step up to the plate as well.
Jill said Kim is always looking for ways to help others. Kim is a physician's assistant, and when Kim's clinic sent workers home due to COVID-19, Kim volunteered to go to other clinics to work instead of being home. That allowed people who may have been more at risk or people with children to lessen their exposure to the virus.
In 2021, about $10,000 worth of gifts were handed out. Kim said every penny stays with the program, meaning she does not get any monetary benefit from the program.
If you would like to donate, you can reach Kim via the Together We Share Together We Care Facebook page.
Do you know someone like Kim who goes above and beyond for their community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you 'Pay It Forward' to them. Click here to nominate someone for the Pay It Forward program.
Meet other recent Pay It Forward Award winners: