(Photo by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
While multiple agencies and area churches focus on making sure kids have presents to open Christmas morning, one local business’ employees have taken it upon themselves to ensure that elderly people in need will also have gifts this holiday season.
Melanie Wright, human resources manager at Dentsply Tulsa Dental Specialties, said each year the employees rally for a good cause, and this year the company’s activities committee decided to focus on nursing home residents who are underserved and do not have loved ones to provide them with presents.
She said committee members called around to local nursing homes in the region to inquire about residents’ needs and to see just how they would be able to help.
“We started calling around and ... didn’t get any details, but just like a first name or maybe a gender and an age. It depended on the facility,” Wright said. “They would let us know what they needed and it was some of the simplest, most humbling gift requests. A lot of them just wanted sweatshirts, jogging suits, lap blankets. Some of them (wanted) Pepsi and Cheetos. One lady wanted a bird feeder and a picture for her room. She’s in her room a lot and she wanted to put a bird feeder outside her window.”
In the end, the committee had a total of 21 names from four different nursing home facilities — Appalachian Christian Village, NCH, Life Care Center of Gray and Lakebridge Healthcare Center.
After compiling the names, Wright said she distributed the names out to the employees and was pleased to see all of the names get adopted.
“I was literally turning people down (who were wanting to adopt a person),” she said. “What I did say is that anybody that was not assigned to a person, here were some generic things that you could purchase and we could divvy them up among the nursing homes. They could either give them to another resident, or they could hold them until next year. If they get a new resident in that had some needs, they could use it for those people. We have more gifts than we can use. We laid out cards at each box (of presents) and everyone’s been signing those.”
Wright said while giving during the holidays is something Dentsply’s employees actively participate in each year, watching everyone respond to the cause has been great to see.
“It has been wonderful,” she said. “Historically, we’ve focused on the children and that’s always brought a lot of compassion for us and everybody just gets behind it, but this (the nursing homes) is something that a lot of us had not really thought about before. Not everybody can be close by to visit their relative or they just may not have the funds to help them. Being in a nursing home can be extremely expensive, and that may be everything that their family can do to keep them there and have them taken care of properly. They may not have anything left after that to get them the little things.”
“Whenever we ask our employees to help in some way, they never flinch. It’s never a question,” Wright said. “They go above and beyond.”