The holiday season is a perfect time and opportunity for appreciation, community, and the giving spirit. Even in humanity’s darkest moments, it is incredible how light always shines through in the most unsuspecting ways. During last year’s holiday season, after months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents and staff of Heron’s Key were like so many people feeling the emotional toll the virus had on the entire country.
The fantastic idea of gifts for each resident and staff on the 12 days leading up to Christmas was developed by Theresa Broxton, Resident Services Program Manager. And then, when Abby Phillips, Trips and Events Coordinator, learned of this idea, she quickly adopted the program with the independent residents. At that point, the entire community jumped in with both feet to share this new holiday tradition.
“Since family members of residents could not be a part of the community during the holidays, we wanted to bring a sense of joy to everyone after such a challenging year,” Broxton explains.
Gathering volunteers was relatively easy as independent living residents were eager to be a part of this new program. These volunteers were divided into two groups, assemblers and deliverers.
Assemblers were able to come together and enjoy creating these gifts that ranged from jingle bells to beaded candy canes, chocolates and treats. Each of these presents coincided with the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day.
“Having the ability to give our residents a sense of purpose along with the camaraderie of working together for a common goal of giving during the holidays, you could see such a positive response from everyone involved,” Phillips added.
Another group of resident volunteers oversaw the delivery of the gifts. These individuals walked through the hallways at Heron’s Key in holiday outfits, spreading joy during their early morning deliveries.
Ultimately, their goal was to give each resident a magical moment first thing in the morning as they opened their door for the first time that day. These deliveries were placed on the pedestal underneath their doorbell each morning.
“We could see a little spark within each resident, and they had the ability to look forward to something every day,” Phillips said.
“I’d like to make it an annual event, and we are on track to make it an annual holiday event. The residents have so much fun with it. We will strive to continue the 12 days of Christmas,” Broxton expressed.
This year, her wish was granted as the 12 days of Christmas program continues within Heron’s Key’s independent living community and have taken it to another level. This year’s gifts center around a lot of food; the first gifts will magically arrive at every resident’s doorstep beginning on December 13th.
Penrose Harbor’s festivities have evolved the new holiday tradition, with weekly gifts arriving every Friday for its residents throughout December.
“At the end of the month, there will be a big party featuring Mr. and Mrs. Claus and every member [of the community],” Broxton said, explaining the culmination of month-long festivities within the assisted living community.