THE JINGLING OF BELLS IS A SIGN that Kirsty Forrest and her merry band of volunteers are bringing holiday cheer to seniors in Clovis-area nursing homes and assisted living centers. Last year, nearly 600 seniors received festively wrapped gifts thanks to Forrest’s Silver Bells program. This year, that number will grow.
“Silver Bells has become a big event,” says Forrest, who launched her program in 2018 to brighten the holidays of older residents in Clovis and Portales. Then she added senior facilities within an hour’s radius of town. This year, Silver Bells plans to gift blankets to several hundred homebound seniors who receive food from the Salvation Army. “I’m so grateful,” she says of the help she receives.
Forrest learned early on about the joys of giving. Growing up in Clovis, she belonged to the Curry County 4-H Club. “We did a lot with nursing homes, where we’d go and sing Christmas carols to the residents,” says Forrest, who owns Dye Trying hair salon and Blue Wave Tanning. “I always remember how much the seniors enjoy being acknowledged.”
The memory stayed with her. When she saw an ad for the Salvation Army’s Angel Trees program, which provides Christmas gifts to children in need, Forrest was inspired. “I thought, Well, hey, I should do something for seniors.” She started Silver Bells on December 1, and by Christmas she had gathered wish lists, created ornaments, coordinated volunteers, and made sure the gifts were delivered. “It was a little crazy that first year,” she says. “I just felt the need to give, and I jumped on it.”
Forrest starts by collecting wish lists from the seniors, then creates paper ornaments for each person with their gift requests. “A lot of the things that people ask for are really simple things—a blanket or their favorite perfume or snack,” Forrest says, though there was one request (fulfilled) for a chocolate cake and a pack of Camel cigarettes.
Forrest strings up each ornament with a ribbon holding a pair of silver bells, then hangs them on Christmas trees at the annual Holiday Bazaar in the Clovis Civic Center. Community members play Santa Claus, plucking ornaments from the trees, then purchasing and delivering the gifts. “I love seeing how Silver Bells affects everyone’s life—the givers and the receivers,” Forrest says. “It’s an all-around way to feel love at Christmastime.”
The impact of Silver Bells echoes throughout the city. “New people are drawn to this program by the good energy that Kirsty puts out,” says Misty Bertrand, general manager of the civic center. “We actually have to turn away volunteers.”
Forrest’s 12-year-old son, Knox, is a regular. “He helps us deliver gifts to the facilities,” Forrest says. “He always loves hearing the stories from the seniors.”
Forrest has plans for yet a third business, a vintage-style barbershop. “I’m a workaholic,” admits the single mom. “Silver Bells has made me more grateful for the relationships that I have with my grandparents, and for making this bond with the community. Without everyone coming together, I couldn’t make it happen. It just makes me love my town that much more."