NEWINGTON - Christmas in a nursing home is still Christmas.
At least it is when staff and the local community join forces to make the holiday special for elderly, chronically ill and wheelchair-bound patients and residents.
The holiday came to Bel-Air Manor this week with neighbors of the New Britain Avenue nursing and rehabilitation facility. Ferrari’s Appliance, Karma’s Closet, ServPro and The Chapel spent the last month or so collecting used clothing, which they donated to Savers in exchange for money to host an event they call ‘Christmas at Bel-Air.’
Gifts were purchased for the home’s 40 residents, including slippers and cologne for the men and body lotion and fuzzy socks for the women. Everyone received warm blankets and hand-knit hats or scarves as well.
Karma’s Closet Consignment Boutique owner Deanna Reney said of the group’s mission, “Newington does a really good job of taking care of kids. It’s just as important for seniors to feel like they belong.”
The Chapel co-founder Dee Wiltshire joined the effort in its second year. She and her husband, Rev. Jim Wiltshire, gave a generous donation to the gift fund.
“We’re here because of them,” she said of the older generation. “Plus, everybody’s a kid at heart.”
Resident Lucy Rucci had been staying at Bel-Air the last three weeks.
“I’d like a winter hat from Santa this year,” she whispered. “Any color.”
Bel-Air Director of Recreation Therapy Sue LePage helped wheel out Rucci and several other residents from their rooms into the atrium, a window-walled area with lots of sunlight, where the party was set to take place.
“This means the world to them,” she said of the group’s gesture. “It shows residents that people out there in the community do care about them. A lot of them have families that come visit them at Christmas, but some of them don’t.”
Ferrari’s Appliance owner Stacey Ferrari handed out presents with her adult children and store employees Desiree and William Herens, along with manager Mikayla Anderson.
They all dressed up as elves or reindeer. Desiree wore a Santa costume and carried a big, shiny bag with treats inside.
Most of the residents sat quietly, in awe of the holiday lights and costumed characters buzzing around them. They also watched performer Jim Sheehan, singing and playing Christmas carols.
Marie Batista sang along, clapping her hands and expressively thanking the visitors for her gifts.
“I never miss these parties,” she said. “They’re so full of fun. I think it’s just the camaraderie we have here. We love each other.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.