WEST COLUMBIA, W.Va. — “Operation Santa Claus” will continue at Lakin Hospital this year in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Darlene Ash, activities director.
For many years, the hospital has depended on the public’s help to provide gifts for its residents, many of whom have no family. Money and gifts will once again be accepted, but other elements of the program will be altered.
Ash said because of the virus, visitors are not allowed into the building. This will mean no volunteers wrapping gifts, and no groups or organizations traveling through the hallways to sing carols.
She said some churches and 4-H groups have agreed to take their visits outside, however. Singers will walk around the building, going to each resident’s bedroom window to provide holiday cheer.
Employees will wrap the gifts coming in during their lunch breaks, beginning this week. Ash said she already has many clothing gifts, having purchased them at 80 percent off when a nearby store went out of business.
Money left over from Operation Santa Claus each year are used for resident outings, such as bowling, the Mason County Fair, and others. Since residents were unable to leave for activities this year, Ash said she was able to do some early shopping for the clothing.
“They are going to have a good Christmas, even though they are confined to the building,” Ash said.
She continued that an employee has volunteered to dress as Santa to deliver presents. That job is normally performed by a volunteer.
As far as gifts, residents especially love large print word search puzzle books, coloring books with crayons, markers or colored pencils, and sugar-free chocolate candy, according to Ash. To deliver the gifts, contributors need to call the hospital at 304-675-0860 to set up a day and time to leave them on the front porch.
A complete list of gift ideas (no glass containers) include:
For women – Dresses (pullover and open back); button-up sweaters; sweat pants and shirts; gowns and open back gowns; knee socks, anklets, and footies; cosmetics; nail polish; perfume/cologne; bath powder; inexpensive jewelry; watches (wrist and pendant); jewelry boxes; purses; change purses; and wallets.
For men – Sport, pullover, and flannel shirts; button-up sweaters; sweat pants and shirts; jeans (size 38 waist and larger); elastic waist pants; pajamas; socks; t-shirts, briefs and boxer shorts; belts and suspenders; and watches (wrist and pocket).
Miscellaneous items – Hats and caps; gloves and mittens; handkerchiefs and bandanas; hand and body lotions; stationery; music boxes; musical toys; body pillows; handheld games; jigsaw puzzles; cans of regular, diet and caffeine free soda; calendars; pictures and posters; sun catchers; washable dolls; sunglasses; shampoo and conditioner; music CD’s and players; picture albums; chewing gum; regular and sugar-free candy and cookies; body wash; and DVD movies.
Items should be purchased and delivered as soon as possible to allow employees to wrap and determine further needs. Any group wanting to sing around the hospital building can call to schedule a day and time.
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Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at email@example.com.