By Kay Whatley, with Susan Aceti and Pat Kendrick
The morning of December 3, 2016, visitors crowded into the Zebulon House residential assisted-living center with food and gifts, and to spend time together. Every residents received a bag of goodies, cookies, and homemade soap, and chatted with volunteers including local business owners and caring people.
Organizer Susan Aceti shared that she felt like the February giveaway she held must have been the “dress rehearsal,” because this Christmas giveaway day went very smoothly! Everyone knew what to do!
Sponsors and volunteers felt comfortable with their roles, and ensured residents received attention along with their zipper-pouches full of goodies. Tina Baines, Zebulon House’s Life Enrichment Coordinator, and the nursing staff knew what to expect and ensured diabetic residents and those in need to comfort or patience received what they needed.
The morning began with Susan Aceti and Pat Kendrick arriving with 60 goodie bags. The first thing they saw upon entering Zebulon House was the Christmas tree they donated, decorated with ornaments that were also donated, in the front entry way. An empty easel sat near the tree, and Susan placed the sponsor board on the easel for all to see.
The event was to take place in a large room where the residents gather for meals. A table was set up at the back, where Susan, Pat, and volunteers could place the love-gifts they and others brought.
Next came volunteer Michelle Lawson, who had made Christmas cards for all 60+ residents, packaged with candy canes and chocolates (regular or sugar free), and holiday ribbons. Michelle came and stayed for the event, seeing how they enjoyed the cards and goodies.
Several members of the Zebulon-based Baxter family — Steve Baxter and their daughters Ella and Anna — came to help. The girls were festooned in Christmas dresses and immediately pitched in with setting out the organic soap handmade by Baxter’s Bees (Ella, Anna, and Shannon) that was donated by The Grey Area News.
Brown Bag Bagel arrived to help. They also set out the cookies they made, which Susan had purchased, on the table for easy grabbing.
The residents, who had come into the room and taken seats, while the nursing staff helped in those who were less mobile.
Kicking off the event, Susan stood up and told everyone of the Christmas that she and her volunteer group had brought to Zebulon House for them. She pointed out the entryway decorated tree, and described the contents of the pouches they would receive that day.
After thanking the sponsors, volunteers began taking goodies to each person. Tina and her staff pitched in with identifying those requiring diabetic candies. The Baxter girls helped give cookies to everyone. Norm and Cindy Fournier and their children, Sean and Caleb, who had baked the cookies at their Brown Bag Bagels shop in Wendell NC, help to distribute the cookies too. Ella and Anna passed out the soaps, which Pat had placed in little bags the day before.
Some residents had difficulty but little girls were “game” to help, as were volunteers Betty Ray, Steve, Michelle, Carolyn, Shanelle, and others who helped everyone check out their pouch’s contents.
Volunteers and sponsors mingled all throughout the room. As each gift or snack was given, attention and kind words were given to the residents. Some sat silently, while others chatted and joked among themselves and with the givers. In giving to the residents, the volunteers received good right back! And hugs. Lots of hugs were shared!
What Susan saw that touched her most was the caring way Tina and the nurses assisted their residents. They are older, they have physical limitations, and the nursing staff treated them patiently, respectfully, and lovingly.
Pat Kendrick mentioned that one of the nursing staff came to her table to assist a 98-year-old with a drink. Someone said to the nurse, “You do a wonderful job,” to which the nurse replied, “That could be me one day.”
Tina shared with Susan and Pat that everyone had enjoyed themselves, and she and her staff appreciated them coming in.
After all were distributed, volunteers walked around Zebulon House visiting those residents who were not able to join the group. Even those in bed who could not participate received a visit and were left with goodies for later.
When they came back to the giveaway room, everyone had left with their pouches — nothing left behind! Susan and her group cleaned up to leave, as the residents would soon be returning to the room for lunch.
Tina also shared that each resident of Zebulon House uses a “Personal Care” tote regularly, and that they were the totes Susan’s group had given during the February event! Susan was quite touched that these totes were continuing to be useful long after the Valentine’s goodies were eaten!
More good may come out of this positive event! According to Steve Baxter, he is considering bringing their girls back to read to the residents. According to Steve, the residents had inspired him! Steve and Tina were already discussing potential for a reading program.
Susan added that she has her mother, Pat, to thank for these successful giveaways. Throughout her life, Pat has told Susan that she can do anything she wants to do, no matter what others say. Because of this encouragement, Susan says, “I can and I will! Love will find a way.”
This Christmas giveaway was the second 2016 event geared toward bringing hope and visitors to Zebulon House. Following this successful morning, plans are being considered for a 2017 event.
Businesses interested in supporting these efforts, or local community members who’d like to pitch in, contact Susan Aceti at 919.426.3779. Susan may also receive messages via her business site, www.mythirtyone.com/susanaceti.
Zebulon House is located at 551 Pony Road, in Zebulon NC. More information about the facility is here. To volunteer-visit at Zebulon House, contact Tina Baines at 919.269.6061.
These events began with Susan Aceti, her mother Pat Kendrick, and friend Jerry. Buoyed by local businesses — who jumped up to help and donated goodies and hygiene products — Susan, Pat, and the assembled volunteer team are looking at ways to deliver joy to Zebulon House on an on-going basis.
Tina told Susan to come and visit anytime, because “You’re family now.”
Zipper Pouch Contents
Volunteer Cynthia S. helped provide lip balms for the pouches. Her brother donated 60 sets of easy-to-hold nail clippers designed by her late brother and donated in his memory — a gift that pleased the residents and the nursing staff. The CNAs were very grateful, as it is sometimes difficult to cut residents’ nails.
All the mini zipper pouches were sponsored by local businesses, family, and friends. A few bags contained hand sanitizer. All contained notebooks from Pat, a special scroll pen with 1 Corinthians Ch 13 printed on them, an olive-wood cross made in Bethlehem donated by Whitley Holloman, peppermints, lip balm, and more.