10 cents at a time, Salem woman supports Keizer seniors

Staff members at The Village at Keizer Ridge accept gifts on behalf of resident. Michelle Paslay launched an effort to provide joy for local seniors and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

When the recent freeze was instituted by the Gov. Kate Brown, Michelle Paslay found her heart breaking for seniors who would be unable to see their families this month. And she decided it was up to her to try to make the holiday brighter.

“They’re not able to leave and they’re not able to see family. You have to look at them through the glass windows. This is sad,” Paslay said.

She began buying Christmas gifts for the memory care unit at The Village at Keizer Ridge. Paslay started off buying everything with her own money, but that was not sustainable. It meant she had to find an alternative way to raise money.

About a year ago Paslay established Capital Senior Services– a business designed to whisk independent seniors away from their homes on their dream adventures.

“I would take elderly to the beach. We would go places and go at the casino, or we would go to nice restaurants on the coast, like the Spanish Head,” Paslay said, adding that Spanish Head is a “hit” with the elderly.

Previously, she worked as a Certified Nurses Assistant (CNA). While Paslay loved spending time and talking with elderly folks, she did not enjoy working for large corporations, so she became an independent contractor.

Things were looking up for Paslay, who found a job she thoroughly enjoyed, until the pandemic hit in March.

Since older seniors are at high risk of complications or death due to COVID-19, Paslay dedicated her time to getting supplies to people who were afraid or unable to leave their homes. She posted a fundraiser on Facebook and was able to raise around $6,600 to buy groceries and supplies for seniors.

“[I thought] ‘What can I do to show people my business cares?’ So, that’s what I did,” Paslay said.

Eventually she ran out of money, but restrictions were starting to lessen in the summer so she was able to take a client to the beach following all COVID guidelines.

As the holiday approached, she began thinking about seniors who would go without family contact this year, and how she could raise money to do it.

“I’m from Washington, I didn’t know that if you return a bottle you get 10 cents back. That’s new to me,” Paslay said.

Her and her twin sister, who lives in Portland, set out to collect as many bottles as possible, but Paslay ran into a problem as she went door to door.

“They’d give me like 10 cans and their garage would be open and you’d see 10 bags just sitting there from quarantine,” Paslay said.

Even so, Paslay purchased enough gifts for the entire memory care unit and then started purchasing other gifts for seniors in need. The gifts contain chocolates, a puzzle, a blanket, non-skid socks, jewelry for the women and a razor kit or body lotion for the men.

“My husband was like, ‘it’s the memory care unit, they’re going to forget,’ but it’s not about that. It’s about Christmas and giving back to the community. It’s about showing people how to make others happy,” Paslay said.