Some wore bright red Santa hats, others donned reindeer antlers and one even affixed a bright red Rudolph nose to his own, all in preparation for a jolly entrance into Clinton House Monday, offering a Christmas surprise to the 37 residents there.
Members of the Clinton-Sampson Rotary entered the assisted living center’s cafeteria singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas, their arms laden with gift bags filled with goodies for the residents, who were at first surprised and then elated over their guests.
The smiles told the story as residents reached one hand out to grasp their gift, the other to touch club members who were delivering them. “Thank you so much,” one resident whispered, delight and surprise spreading across her face.
The gifts — an assortment of needy supplies like hand lotion, baby powder, socks, brushes, combs, shampoo and beverage containers — were the Rotary Club’s way of delivering a little Christmas magic to a group of adults who often get left out during the holiday season.
The club chose to adopt Clinton House after president-elect Nancy Carr read a letter she had received from one of the residents, Elizabeth Cody to members a few weeks back.
In that letter, Cody made an impassioned plea for assistance for her fellow residents, noting that many of them had few, if any, family members and would likely do without during the season of giving, unless someone intervened
The letter was written to the United Way of Sampson County, where Carr serves as executive director. Knowing that the local UW couldn’t handle the request, Carr brought it to the attention of her fellow Rotary members who jumped at the chance to help.
In part, Cody’s letter reads: “I am writing to you to ask for your help this Christmas. Many of our residents have no families and we are pretty much forgotten over the holidays. I am asking for your help so that each of our residents will have a small gift under the tree …”
Rotarians, moved by the letter, quickly sprang to action.
“This will be a wonderful Christmas project for us,” current Rotary president Victoria Byrd said when the club opted to adopt the Clinton House residents for Christmas. “It epitomizes our motto of Service Above Self.”
Armed with a desire to help, Rotarians selected items from a list provided by Clinton House director Dennis Reid and began shopping, delivering the amassed supplies at the club meeting on Dec. 9. During that meeting, Rotarians transformed into busy little elves, stuffing gift bags with the acquired goodies, affixing Christmas ornaments to the handles, along with green or red bows denoting which were for men and which were for women.
The bags were then loaded into a make-shift sleigh, courtesy of Carr and fellow Rotarian Donna Williams’ vehicles, awaiting transport to Clinton House.
One week later, the gifts were delivered, along with lots of smiles and hugs.
“I cannot tell you how much we appreciate this,” Reid said as he greeted the Rotarians. “It means so much to our residents.”
It probably didn’t mean any more, Rotarians said, than it did to each of them.
“This has made my Christmas,” Williams said as she stooped down to assist an elderly resident sort through her just-delivered gifts.
“This is what it’s all about,” declared Nancy “Boomer” Barefoot as she adjusted her Santa hat and greeted another resident with a hug. “I hope you have a Merry Christmas,” she said to the woman, who beamed up at her. “Merry Christmas to you too,” she said.
As fellow Rotarian Billy Peterson surveyed the cafeteria filled with smiling faces, he offered a smile of his own, shaking his head in wonder. “This is special,” he acknowledged, “very special.”
Cody seemed to agree, nodding vigorously as Rotarians handed out gifts Monday, tears welling in her eyes. “Merry Christmas,” she whispered softly, taking Peterson’s hand. “This means a lot.”