Noel Smith and her mother Merri, watched with delight as seniors tore into Christmas packages during the sixth annual Christmas in July at Highland Manor Nursing Facility. Noel who was supposed to be born in January came early, in December, earning her the name. Merri presumably got the same treatment from her parents.
Noel, a manager from Colonial Management, busily scurried around with the other elves from Colonial Management who gathered out of sight in the front of the Manor preparing large presents for delivery to the seniors. Friday night, July 27, the Colonial Management elves had a “wrap party” to wrap all of the donations. The Mesquite community had been donating gifts for months just for this event. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived and the show was set to begin.
The plan was to deliver presents to the residents in each of three halls, one at a time. As only Mesquite could do, the procession would be lead by Dennis Hangey, Mesquite's premier bag piper attired in his traditional kilts. Playing Jingle Bells on the bag pipe, the group moved out, singing along with the bag pipe.
“We have had an over abundance of generosity this year,” said Carrie Gomez, Activity Director for Highland Manor. “People have been dropping off gifts to all our collection points for months. It has been great.”
“This really is a wonderful feeling,” said James Sullivan, Administrator of Highland Manor. “It brings everyone together and builds a great community. Members of the community called and asked if they could offer $50 or $75 in lieu of a gift, all anonymously, of course. It all adds to the spirit of giving to our seniors and the people that live here love it.”
Beginning with the Alzheimer’s wing, presents were handed out and, like little children who get up early on Christmas morning to see their presents, there was a sparkle in the eyes of those who live in that wing. The elves helped the elderly unwrap the gifts which contained many great personal items that come in handy for seniors, like toiletries, and also included pants, t-shirts, slippers, puzzles and games, even some jewelry for the women.
While the opening was going on, the bag piper played more Christmas tunes followed by a quartet led by Dennis Lynch, President of the local Vietnam Vets, singing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. That song brought the usual chuckles about a white Christmas in Mesquite in July. There were smiles all around.
The group made its way to the next hall with the residents eagerly awaiting because they could hear the Christmas music coming their way. As the group walked down the hall, all the private rooms were empty because each person waited patiently in the community room.
This resident hall had several veterans of long ago wars and each received a hat emblazoned with the logo of the Mesquite Veterans Center. The hats were donated by their fellow Mesquite Vets and were prized gifts that quickly went on their heads.
With the picture of a cozy fire burning in the fireplace on a big screen television, the packages were ripped open to more Christmas tunes sung by the quartet and a tune from the bag pipes.
Margaret Hardy, now 101 years old, had gotten her hair permed especially for this event knowing the cameras would be all around. She was as excited as any child as she opened her present. “Oh, this is wonderful,” she said. “It really is like Christmas. Thank you to the people of our lovely town.”