With Christmas fast approaching, Oakdale Mayor Cherilyn Bairos and good friend Lisa Ballard had their sights set on spreading holiday cheer to some of the local seniors at Oakdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. One by one people began to group together in the front parking lot on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 23, waiting for word from Bairos on the commencement of the third annual Christmas holiday cheer campaign. Soon after, the Grinch and Santa joined them to walk the halls as well. Bairos explained to the group that a mask would be required along with a temperature check and a signed COVID screen form for an extra layer of protection for those making the holiday visit and those residents welcoming the visitors. The volunteer visitors covered a wide age range and, after all checks and safety protocols were adhered to, began to go inside and start the spread of Christmas cheer.
Toiletries that included shampoo, body wash, lotion, Kleenex, conditioner and deodorant, filled the gift bags that were handed out to a total of 50 men and 30 women. All gifts were collected by donations throughout the past few weeks. The bags were also personally decorated by Oakdale students to add extra flare.
“They come in and bring in the joy, I just stand back and watch,” Center Activities Director Robyn Kuppens explained of the visitors sharing time with residents. “I look forward to the joy on their faces and seeing the smiles reach their eyes; it’s priceless.”
All the volunteers, which included several local youngsters, then began to walk the halls passing out the gifts and everyone broke out in song. The sound of Christmas carols flooded the halls, bringing smiles and tears to most, including several staff members. Many residents made it their mission to push themselves in their wheelchairs just to thank each volunteer for the happiness they brought to their home. With having holiday events postponed there the past two years due to the pandemic, being allowed to physically come in and spread hope and cheer became very important for Bairos and Ballard, with Ballard taking the lead this year. The pair started this tradition a few years ago locally, giving the seniors small things they would need or want and were happy once again to host the holiday visit.
“The thing is, most of these residents here, a lot of them, they don’t get to see anybody. So with some protocols, we got to deliver the gifts face to face this year,” Bairos stated.
When Ballard was asked what word comes to mind when this event rolls around she said: “Community. COVID stopped us the past two years but we still donated gifts.”
Next year, the two said they plan to continue the event, filling the atmosphere with happiness and Christmas spirit.