TIFTON — When Tift County schools canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it left seniors unsure if they would have a graduation ceremony or not. However, a Facebook group is determined to make sure seniors still feel special.

The Tift County Adopt A Senior 2020 Facebook group allows a senior to be placed up for “adoption” so that members of the community can send them cards, gifts, a gift card, gift basket or something else that will make that senior feel special and loved.

The page was started when Ashley Rutledge Evers saw the idea from another Facebook group.

“I approached a friend of mine who has triplets that are seniors this year, Betsy Jones, and asked her if anyone in Tifton had started this for their seniors,” said Evers. When Jones told Evers one had not been started, Evers offered to start an Adopt a Senior for the Tift area community.

“I don’t actually live in Tifton,” said Evers, “but my in-laws live in Tifton and I’ve formed many valuable relationships and friendships throughout the last 17 years. I knew this hardship was impacting my friends with kids who were seniors this year.”

To place a senior up for “adoption,” parents, grandparents, family or friends of that senior, or even the senior themselves, can post up to five pictures of themselves on the Tift County Adopt A Senior 2020 Facebook group page, along with a short biography about the senior as well as gifts they would like to receive.

Posts should start with “Not Adopted,” according to the group’s About page, then should be edited to “Adopted” once the one who posted the information is notified that the senior has been “adopted.”

To adopt a senior, a person needs to comment “adopted” on the post of that senior on the Facebook group. Once the poster sees that message, then the senior and the adopter message each other to discuss likes and interests so that the adopted can gift the senior, said Evers.

Currently, a senior cannot be adopted more than once, according to the page, since they’d like all Tift County seniors to be adopted before multiple persons adopt one student. Eligible seniors include any public, private or homeschool senior that either lives in or attends school in Tift County.

To make sure seniors get gifts, “it is emphasized that it is up to the adopter and adoptee to be sure that they contact one another immediately upon the adoption,” said Evers.

“They have to facilitate getting the gift to the senior,” she said. “They can do this by any means they feel safe doing so. Whether a senior wants to share an online wish list, or share an address to mail the gift, or meet them in a public place and with a friend, that is between the adopted senior or person who nominated that senior.”

Evers said she has seen a lot of community support for the project.

“I’ve seen people screen shot and send me messages of posts [saying] ‘Look!’ These people are adopting these seniors and then even still calling on the community to help me go above and beyond with gifts and more gifts to make sure the seniors really know they are loved,” said Evers.

Currently, Evers says they have more adopters than seniors and wants all of the seniors and their families to know about this Facebook group so that they can be sure every single senior of Tift County High School, Tiftarea Academy and all homeschooled seniors are included.

“Seniors are being adopted as quickly as they’re being posted on the page,” said Evers, “so we would love all seniors and their family and friends to nominate them and the community to join in on adopted every senior.”

The deadline to “adopt” a senior is May 23. The Tift County Adopt A Senior 2020 Facebook group page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2692649277685997/.

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