Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and it always has been. With that in mind, since I began working for the company in 2004, I have been devoted to trying to create a joyous time for the individuals that we serve. A few years ago we began booking a musician named Doug Spartz who comes to the homes in Detroit Lakes to perform for us. We pick a house where he will set up in the corner with his guitar and he will sing Christmas songs to entertain residents and staff. The smiles on the faces of the individuals are priceless as they tap their fingers or sing along. He even does a small skit as Santa Claus and his wife is Mrs. Claus. Along with that we all enjoy tacos in a bag, or as some call them walking tacos and cookies. Some of the guys start asking me in September/October if he is coming back. Music works wonders.
For our individuals that don’t get to go home for the holidays, we have a special family-style dinner at one of the homes with traditional turkey or ham and all of the fixings. We don’t have the traditional pumpkin pie however, as one of our guys always requests chocolate pie. This means a lot to the guys and gals that don’t have family that live close by or just don’t have family anymore. They know that they have family here in their homes at Thrive. The staff make it so special for them by just being here, adding those little touches such as putting up the Christmas trees the way they did in their own homes while growing up, assisting with holiday cards, baking cookies, making special meals around the holidays, etc. Staff go above and beyond to help build good memories when it comes to the holidays.
We always have staff that spend time driving individuals home for the holidays, and they are always so willing. Then they get to turn around and go pick them back up in a couple of days. I did this right after Thanksgiving this year, and my favorite part was hearing about how there was “such great conversation as my brother and I were doing the dishes after we ate.” And as I picked another individual up I was asked, “Is it okay if I have another smoke with my dad before we leave?” Well of course it is as family is so important. You have to have the time and make the most out of that time while it is here.
The Primary Direct Support Professionals in each home enjoy getting together and going Christmas shopping for everyone. They know that they have a specific amount to spend on each individual, and they begin a month before Christmas trying to decide on what special gift they can get each person. This makes me smile because I remember when I used to have that job, it was one of my favorites. I was able to see the joy on their face when they opened something that they knew was specially chosen for them and came from the heart. When you spend as much time with the individuals that we serve as we do our own families, you get to know what makes them tick and what they enjoy. It helps to make their holiday season special.
This year we are doing a new thing; a cookie exchange between our four homes. The residents and staff in each home will bake ten dozen of their favorite cookies to exchange, so that each home will have different cookies to enjoy over the holidays. We have a couple of individuals that love to bake, so this should be very interesting. My sweet tooth is anxiously awaiting to taste the different kinds of cookies they bake. In the past we have actually sent cookies to the Central Office including Aimee in Arizona. We will have to wait and see if that happens this year.
In closing, I hope that each and every one of you reading this take time to listen to the beautiful holiday music, enjoy family time over the holiday season, and have a wonderful New Year!