No Scrooges at these communities

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

In the final month or so of each year, our thoughts frequently focus on our own good fortune and ways that we can bring happiness to others' lives. Residents and others several senior living communities have been turning their thoughts into action once again this year.

In Camp Hill, PA, Ernesteen Ecker (center in the photo below) is making a ringing endorsement for generosity. She will be raising funds for the local chapter of the Salvation Army from her living space at The Woods at Cedar Run, an independent living, assisted living and memory care community.

Ecker, who will turn 98 on Dec. 19, recently received a diagnosis of B-cell lymphoma and was told she has weeks or months to live, but that hasn't stopped the former teacher and tutor from setting up a GoFundMe web page, where she is seeking to raise $3,000.

Her efforts this year are a continuation of those of previous years, when she has been part of a team of fellow residents — calling themselves the Sassy Seniors — that has won Grand Champion honors in four of the past five “Battle of the Bells” campaigns and has won the title of Top Bell Ringers for five straight years.

Now, Ecker's dining room table serves as her red kettle station and is decorated with her official Sassy Seniors T-shirt and a photo of her team members. During the past five years, they have raised $36,000 to help support more than 20,000 local people in need.

“It fills my heart with such pride and warmth to know that even at my age I can make such a difference in so many people's lives,” Ecker says on her web page. “As a teacher, it is what I have always done and will continue to do until I take my final breath on this earth.”

Building a case for charity

At continuing care retirement / life plan community Emerald Heights in Redmond, WA, a group of 12 residents calling themselves the Wooden Toy Makers recently donated 624 handmade wooden toys to several local charities, among them Seattle Children's Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.

The group formed in 2014 and uses saws, sanders and other hand tools to create wooden cars, blocks, airplanes, tug boats, dinosaurs and other toys.

“I am a great fan of blocks because they require imagination to see them as spaceships, cows or books,” says Dale Thompson, a resident at Emerald Heights who leads the group with Mary Miele of Canyon Creek Cabinet Co., which donates the wood to make the toys each year. “And their batteries never go dead,” he adds.

Since the group began three years ago, the toymakers have donated more than 1,000 of their creations to children through various charities. Another crafts group at Emerald Heights supports the toymakers by creating cloth drawstring bags for each set of wooden blocks.

“The children receive something that they can enjoy, play with and share,” Thompson says. “It is rewarding to give them that.”

Giving is baked in

The fitness center at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville, MD, raised $1,800 for charity when it held a pie-baking/shelf-decorating contest just before Thanksgiving.

The proceeds from the Nov. 18 event went to Southwest Emergency Services, which provides a food pantry and financial aid to clients needing assistance, and to The Marian House, which offers rehabilitative services and housing to homeless women and their children.

Staff members at the Erickson Living community made the pies, and residents decorated the shelves, which were displayed in photographs. A balloon artist made turkey-shaped table arrangements, which were given away as prizes. (Pictured here: Turkey [Wendel Thompson] brings desserts and silliness.)

Other examples of generosity

Several news stories reminded me recently of other heartwarming efforts by senior living residents and staff members, some of which are tied to holidays and some just happening to occur around this time of year:

In Charles Dickens' literary classic “A Christmas Carol,” the elderly Ebenezer Scrooge is portrayed as miserly and mean, at least before visits from three spirits. These senior living residents, staff members and others ably demonstrate, however, that love and compassion for others at this time of year — all year, actually — is the norm.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Contact her at lois.bowers@mcknights.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.

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