January 17, 2012

Holiday Celebration

Posted in Events, Residential, Volunteer Spotlight at 5:02 pm by Lund

Story and Photos by Cat Cutillo

“Ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas!” bellowed Santa as he jingled his way into Independence Place immediately launching into “Jingle Bells” and waving his hands for mothers and children to sing-along.

Quietly, a few voices joined in. By the end of the song everyone was singing loudly, and some of the children were dancing.

“I don’t do it to be paid. The pay I get is the joy. If everyone sings jingle bells and they’ve got a smile on their face, it’s a good visit,” said Santa who has been visiting Lund for the past several Decembers and bringing his holiday spirit to nursing homes, schools, private parties and even jails for nearly 50 years throughout the state of Vermont. Working alongside his wife Mrs. Claus, the duo has made up to three-dozen Santa appearances some Decembers.

“I know Santa believes strongly that there is room for the spiritual and the magical part of Christmas,” said Mrs. Claus.

After caroling, Santa invited the children to come take pictures. Proudly, mothers plopped their children on Santa’s lap, each child amusing the crowd with a different reaction: some smiling, some stunned, some even a little scared.

“He always says it’s a special privilege for him when these mothers let him hold their newborns,” said Mrs. Claus about Santa.

Lund’s annual holiday parties at both the Residential Treatment Facility on Glen Road, and the independent living facility, Independence Place are always a hit.  And while Santa is quite an opening highlight, the excitement only continued after his departure when staff brought out the huge bags filled with presents.

“This year we raised over $61,500 in holiday gifts and helped over 500 people. Each donation made a difference in someone’s holiday,” said Alex Brady, Development Coordinator at Lund.

Wide-eyed moms reached into the pile of presents opening up gifts of pots and pans, clothing for their children and other necessities.

“Some of the women certainly have families that are connected and who provide them with a great holiday and there are some women who do not have those natural supports whether their families aren’t healthy or they’re just not involved and so for some of them that was the only Christmas they will have,” said Tammy Santamore, Lund’s Transition Services Coordinator.

And while all the clients loved the presents and the party, it can also be a challenging adjustment, sometimes met with mixed emotions.

“The holidays are a really hard time for people and it can be overwhelming to be receiving these gifts from someone who’s a total stranger who bought this for you and your child when maybe your own family has never done that,” said Tammy Santamore, Lund’s Transition Services Coordinator. “You can be really happy you’re getting a gift and you can be also be  conflicted that you don’t have  natural supports.”

But Tammy says that adjustment is all part of the journey towards recovery and an important opportunity to change the future.

“To be able to support the women in establishing those traditions for themselves in a safe, healthy, fun way is important. It’s important for them to establish these traditions for their child because they report that they want their child to remember a tree and remember opening presents and remember seeing Santa Claus,” said Tammy.

And for Santa and Mrs. Claus, who have three adopted grandchildren, not adopted thru Lund, they said the holiday spirit can be a healing time for everyone.

“Because we all live a little in the magical world and if we don’t we ought to be looking at what we’re doing in the world because we’re missing a lot,” said Mrs. Claus who said despite a ‘light’ year of a dozen Santa appearances, the husband and wife team was already making plans for next year.

“As long as I’m able, I will continue to serve the community,” said Santa. “It’s satisfying to know you’re helping someone in your community.”

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