An angel to the seniors; she will not forget them

An angel to the seniors; she will not forget them

As we're hurrying about to do our last minute Christmas shopping, we have a beautiful reminder that sometimes it is the simplest of gifts that can bring the most joy.

It starts with a little trinket and continues with a mother's tribute.

Debbie Manning remembers the day well.

"It first started when my mother had to stay in a nursing home for about 30 days to get infusions over a Christmas holiday," Debbie said. "Santa Claus came and gave her a little trinket bracelet that was plastic. When I came to see her, she was so excited by that."

The joy that a simple gift brought to her mother set Debbie Manning on a mission. With her mom's help, they began to return the kindness by starting their own annual gift program for hundreds of seniors.

"It just bloomed into making coffee mugs for shut-ins; toys for the gentlemen, ties, blankets, jewelry for the ladies," Debbie said.

Margaret Gerauld is the Council on Aging Activities Supervisor. She and her staff get to deliver those gifts.

"Our in-home clients and our community-based clients at the senior centers just fell in love with all of these items," Margaret explained.

Just hearing that makes Debbie's day.

"I take great pride and joy in making these gifts and putting them in boxes," Debbie said. "And imagining that senior person opening that package with the necklace in it or the toy or that scarf and hoping that that really helps make their Christmas bright."

All year long, Debbie and her young-at-heart mother, Lois Price, would look for the perfect items to go into their gift mugs and bags. Their searches were quite the adventure and always fun.

Travels with Miss Lois sound like quite a hoot.

"She's been known to walk up the driveway of a garage sale and say, 'Do you have any jewelry, any costume jewelry? We make things for the seniors at Christmas.' And, of course, she was 86 years old," Debbie said.

This year, the delivery to the Council on Aging was bittersweet. Debbie's mother died just a few weeks ago.

In her honor, she's determined to carry on what they started. That touched Margaret deeply.

"She said that she really wanted to continue the tradition; made her feel better in her healing process," Margaret said. "And I said to her, 'You know, you have turned your sorrow into great joy for many, many, many senior citizens in our area.'"

Still remembering that little plastic bracelet, Debbie is reminded that there are many seniors who might find happiness in a simple gift just like her mom did. So, the mission continues.

"Because I feel in my heart that it's so important that they not be missed as Christmas," Debbie smiled.

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.

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