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Tables Turn As Youngsters Give Christmas To The Elderly

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – The elementary students from Southwest Christian School in Fort Worth paid a surprise visit to their neighbors Thursday.  Dozens of students paraded in a long line from their school, down the street and into Wedgewood Nursing home… all carrying large, Christmas-themed gift bags.

“They got everything you asked for on your Christmas list!” Coretta Sarrel-Post-Miller, the events coordinator at the nursing home, told the residents who had gathered in the day room.   “And at this time of year it is so important because our world and our society has forgotten about giving and the true meaning of Christmas.”

The school had asked nursing home employees to have residents fill out a Christmas wish list in October.  But none of the residents knew their list would be sent to classrooms at Southwest Christian, where students would then adopt an “angel” and do the Christmas shopping for the nursing home residents.

Workers at Wedgewood say no one has ever asked their residents what they wanted for Christmas.

Looking like little elves, students entered the building and the school choir began the program by singing Christmas carols.  The students surveyed their audience warily.  Most of their listeners were in wheel chairs an some, suffering the effects of strokes, weren’t able to sit up or could only manage to bring their faces into a partial smile.  Others watched on with oxygen tubes running from tanks to their nostrils.

It didn’t take long for the residents to understand what was happening.  Some sang along with the children while others moved their feet or hands in time to the music.  But it was when the gift bags were handed out that the meaning of what was happening began to sink in for both the residents and the children.

“Hi!” one young girl said cheerfully as she approached a man watching everything from his wheelchair in the back of the room.  “Are you Carl?  This is for you,” she said, as she handed him a large bag full of gifts.

Normally, the school donates toys for kids.  This year, the Christmas lists the students received were quite a bit different.

“A lot of the women wanted costume jewelry, house slippers, a simple t-shirt,” said 6th grade class resident Libby Gear. Special shampoos and housecoats were also big on the wish lists.

Many of the students helped the elderly unpack their gift bags and explore what was inside. “You like Elvis?” one girl asked, as she handed a woman a CD of Elvis Presley performing holiday songs. “Oh yes!” the woman exclaimed excitedly.  “I’ve got Elvis on my blanket.”

Many of the residents watched excitedly as the students reached into bags to pull out the next present.  The children soon realized they were giving far more than just a few simple gifts.

“They were all overjoyed that they got this simple stuff,” 6th grader Ben Cowley said.  It was a reaction he had not anticipated.

Nursing home resident Melody Patrillo talked excitedly about her gifts. “I got jewelry, earrings, and I got clips for my hair and a robe. I can’t tell you I got so much!  It would take a year to use it all!”

But the biggest gift, Patrillo said, was being remembered. “It means a lot. I have no family, so it means a lot to me.”

While the students and residents were separated by generations, they all shared the timeless joy of giving.

“I think they’ve been having gifts under the Christmas tree but that’s all they’ve been having,” resident Patsy Robins said about the students. “Now, they know how to give.”

“They look like I do on Christmas morning,” 6th grader Gear said of the residents.  “It’s just really a great feeling knowing you did something great for people who are just right next door to you.”

Southwest Christian is considering making the Christmas delivery visit an annual tradition.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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