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St. Joe students set up Santa shop at Harbor Healthcare in Ironton

Getting out to go shopping can be difficult when you’re a senior citizen, especially for those in retirement homes.

With that in mind, members of the St. Joseph’s ninth grade class and a trio of 12th graders set up a Santa shop for residents of Harbor Healthcare on Tuesday as part of their community project.

“We want the residents to be able to have presents to give to their family members or to get things for themselves,” explained Jennifer Dickess, the English teacher at St. Joseph High School.

The residents got to pick four or five items from four tables with the gifts ranging from coloring books and toys to hairbrushes to lip balm to car fresheners to coffee cups and mugs to fuzzy socks to candies to more festive items like headbands with Christmas bulbs or Santa hats.

“They go through the line and pick out their items. Then, our kids are wrapping the gifts so they can give them to their family for the holidays,” Dickess said.

One of the Harbor Healthcare residents, Mary Bradley, was picking out gifts for her great-grandchildren.

“I think it is wonderful,” she said of the Santa shop. “This shows people care for others besides themselves. And I wouldn’t have been able to get out and shop myself.”

Dickess said she came up with the idea and recruited high school math teacher Tammy Johnson to help.

All the items were free because the students raised money to buy the items.

“We do a lot of fundraising at our school, but I wanted our kids to do something that was completely community orientated and completely a service project,” Dickess said. “We wanted to do something that was not only a service, but to expose the kids, because they are so young, to the older community. I told them, I wanted them to be outside their comfort zone, that I wanted them to talk to and serve people that may not normally be on their radar. We wanted them to engage with the seniors.”

Student Matt Sheridan said this was the first big community project the freshmen had gotten to do.

“I think it is a great idea to help some of these elderly people to get presents for their grandchildren and relatives some gifts for Christmas,” he said, adding that having to interact with people as part of the project, rather than just donating items, helps give them all a different perspective. “It makes us step out of our comfort zone and to help people personally. I’m loving this, it is awesome.”

Bella Whaley was in the line helping residents picking out fuzzy socks or other items.

She said she likes interacting with the residents.

“I think it is great for us and also really good for us to see what it is like to be helping others, especially if we don’t normally do that,” she said, adding that she feels that service is really good for all the St. Joseph students to do and helping the elderly is really great. “A guy earlier was telling me a story and I was just listening. It’s been really fun.”