As the leaves begin to fall and the days get chillier, our thoughts turn to the holidays, especially the most magical time of year. Christmas is a special season, a time to celebrate the ultimate gift given to us by giving gifts to others. Christmas at Fulton Presbyterian Manor is especially exciting, thanks to our very own Secret Santa. We sat down with him or her (we’ve got to keep you guessing) to ask a few questions:
Q: What do you do for the residents at Fulton Presbyterian Manor when Christmas comes around?
A: Keri Edwards, marketing director, and Donna Hunter, social services director, make a list of residents and go around to interview them to see what they would like from Santa. After the deadline passes for families to bring in Christmas presents for their loved ones, Keri gives me a list of suggested presents. I have no names, only a number to identify them. I take this list and, with Keri’s help, I go shopping so everyone has a present under the tree from Santa. To do this right, not only do they not know who I am, I don’t know who they are either.
Q: What inspired you to start doing it?
A: I came to one of the Christmas parties, and I saw how some people received nice presents and some received things like lotion. I saw their expressions when those who received items like lotion look at their neighbor’s gift compared to theirs. It brought tears to my eyes. The first year I just gave money so the manor could buy better gifts. The next year I decided to do the shopping myself. With my cell phone in hand, I went to the mall. If I saw something I thought they would like, I would take a picture, send it to Keri, and she would say yes or no.
Q: How long have you been helping Fulton Presbyterian Manor and their residents with Christmas?
A: Since 2012.
Q: Have you ever been given a Secret Santa gift?
A: I don’t recall ever getting anything from a Secret Santa. Every so often, I will get a thank you card addressed to Secret Santa. They, too, bring tears to my eyes knowing I made someone’s day.
Q: What kind of “gifts” do you receive in return?
A: I receive a peace in my heart knowing I may have made someone’s day. My second year of giving, I went to the Christmas party and watched people’s reactions. Words could not describe what I saw. It made me cry to see these people so happy. After that time, I decided to not attend, if I could help it. This may sound weird but I felt God wanted me to just do it, by watching I felt I was undoing his blessing he may have for me, for at the party I was sort of patting myself on the back and that is wrong. With a parent living there I couldn’t always avoid the parties but while there I would just focus on why I was there and not what everyone received.
Q: Have you inspired others to be their own Secret Santa?
A: I do not know, only a handful of people know I do this. To me the fewer that know, the better.
Q: Any helpers you’d like to thank?
A: Poor Keri has been stuck dealing with me the past five years. I don’t know what I would do without her. I am afraid if she ever leaves the manor, the Secret Santa will, too. I can’t imagine anyone putting their heart into this Secret Santa like Keri has. Plus, I really can’t imagine someone else putting up with me through this like she has, especially come shopping time. While Secret Santa may think Keri is weary of her role, she doesn’t feel this way! “It’s been fun working with our Secret Santa over the years,” Keri said. “To be a part of the process from beginning to end is wonderful. It definitely takes some work on Santa’s part to find the right gift for everyone. It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a few weeks of us communicating closely. Santa has been a blessing not only to me but the rest of our staff and residents over the years. I look forward to our resident Christmas party every year. It’s an amazing sight to see the joy our Secret Santa brings to our residents.”
Executive Director Dawn Smith agrees. “Our secret Santa has been blessing our residents for several years. We are so grateful for this person as they are helping us give lots of love to our residents at Christmas.”
Perhaps you’ll be inspired to be a Secret Santa for someone you know, or even for someone you don’t know! A little extra love can go a long way, especially during this time of year, which can be hard for those who’ve lost loved ones.
Plan Ahead: For the resident Christmas party we will invite resident families along with staff families in for a big breakfast. Our dining staff creates an amazing breakfast that includes almost every breakfast food you can imagine. We try to have Santa and Mrs. Claus come to give out presents. Any children who are there also receive a gift. This is a special time of the year for the residents, staff and their families. Stay tuned for more details.