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Bringing Christmas Cheer: St. Joseph sophomores set up Santa Shop

A bit of Christmas came to the residents of Harbor Healthcare on Friday. For the second year, students from St. Joseph High School set up a Santa Shop to make it easier for residents who may not be able to get presents for their loved ones.

Jennifer Dickess, the English teacher at St. Joseph High School, explained that the 22 students came up with the idea of doing the Santa Shop last year. She said the now-sophomores were very eager to do it again this year and were downright protective of their community project.

“They came in at the beginning of the year, and, before anything else, asked if I was going to let the freshman do the project,” she said. “I said, ‘absolutely not. It belongs to you and you are going to do it until you graduate.’ They were very determined to hold onto the project.”

Dickess said the students raised the money to buy the gifts, the Christmas bags and snacks. That way, all the gifts were free for the residents.

The residents got to pick four or five items from four tables, with the gifts ranging from coloring books and toy dinosaurs to hairbrushes to lip balm to car fresheners to coffee cups and mugs to fuzzy socks to candies to scarves.

“It’s a lot of work for them,” Dickess said. “I want them to know that it is a matter of service, that the number one priority at our school is to be Christ-like, to serve other people.”

And she wants them to be involved with the elderly.

“I want them to understand. Someday, they will be old, too,” she said. “I want to foster compassion and want to get them out of their comfort zone and I want them to show love, especially at Christmas time.”

Student Bailey Dickess was helping guide residents around the tables of gifts on Friday and agreed the class was very protective of continuing this particular community service.
“We really loved doing this last year and seeing the joy on people’s faces,” she said. “I helped a lady earlier and she kept going on and on about her little calendar. It is the small things that matter. It really is just the best thing to see people happy.”

Student Nick Pauley said he, too, really enjoys the Santa Shop project.

“These people normally can’t get out and do the shopping they would like to do for their family,” he said. “This is an opportunity for them to finally be able to get gifts for other people. And it is nice to see them enjoying this.”

Harbor Healthcare activity director Melissa Garris said the residents get very excited about the Santa Shop.

“It is just nice to have some people in the community come in and volunteer,” she said. “Some residents don’t have family members. And the residents really enjoy this. Some of them don’t have the funds to go out and purchase things for Christmas. And this makes them feel good.”