McCORDSVILLE — Deb Roysdon wrote a Facebook post, asking for help brightening the holidays for residents of a nearby nursing home.
Within 15 minutes of posting her plea, people had stepped up for every aspect of the event, offering to buy presents, bake cookies and bring Christmas joy to the residents of the memory care unit of Traditions at Brookside, a specialized facility for seniors living with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other diseases affecting their memory. And Wednesday evening, some 50 people arrived at the newly opened facility, bearing gifts inspired by letters to Santa the residents wrote earlier this week.
Youngsters wearing festive sweaters passed out wrapped presents and stockings stuffed with candy and trinkets to the residents, who seated themselves in a common area of the memory care wing. The residents had simple wishes — some asked for baseball caps or knick-knacks, while resident Roma Mullin requested only a new hairbrush.
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Pamela Jacobs of Fortville gave resident Korena Preston a box of manicure supplies, including several shades of nail polish, top coat and nail polish remover.
Roysdon organized the event as part of the charitable organization she started in memory of her father; every year, the Jack Roysdon Memorial Foundation takes on projects aimed at bettering the community.
Jacobs remembers visiting nursing homes during the holidays when she was a child and was thrilled to continue the tradition of honoring seniors.
She is a caretaker for the seniors as a home health care worker and was pleased to see the residents looking well in the new facility, she said.
Preston, who sat on a couch with two other residents, steps from a floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree decked in teal and gold ribbons and ornaments, was completely surprised by the party thrown for her and her neighbors, she said.
It was the kind of event that Roysdon’s father would have loved, she said.
The Jack Roysdon Memorial Foundation was created in 2012 in memory of its namesake, an Army veteran who served the community by helping to start the Mt. Vernon Optimist Club in Mt. Vernon schools and by always lending a hand to veterans. The foundation provides scholarships to philanthropic high school seniors and assists veterans and the homeless with bills, medical expenses, holiday needs and daily living necessities.
“After my dad passed, I wanted to do something to keep his memory alive,” Roysdon said.
“I decided the best thing to do would be to keep helping people like he did.”
An annual benefit dinner around May 5, Jack’s birthday, raises money for the charitable efforts of the foundation. And every year, the foundation either chooses families or a nursing home or assisted living facility to contribute to during the holidays, she said.
Traditions at Brookside opened in April, and Deb lives nearby, so she decided to reach out and see if the facility’s staff would allow them to throw a little celebration for the residents.
Deb Roysdon’s wife, Sherry Roysdon, said the event came together in a beautiful way and that it felt good to help organize it.
Memory care director Mona Clark beamed while watching the residents reach for the brightly wrapped boxes, she said.
Having a nice party with snacks, presents and singing carols meshes well with the everyday efforts of staff members who want help their memory care residents reminisce about the happiest times of their lives, she said.
“We want them to remember their childhood Christmases with Grandma,” she said.
Staffers helped the 20 residents write letters with their Christmas wishes, writing out what they said they wanted for some of the residents whose handwriting is no longer legible, Clark said.
The group brought thoughtful, meaningful gifts for the residents, she said, including Elvis-related items for resident Linda Sparks, who loves the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
“The quality of the gifts was beautiful,” she said.
Deb Roysdon hopes to build a relationship among her foundation, her neighborhood and the residents of the assisted living facility, she said. She hopes the folks who stepped up for Wednesday’s party will be willing to keep visiting all throughout the year.
Larry Webb, whose family brought wrapped plates of homemade cookies for the residents, found himself being placed in charge of leading the singing of Christmas carols. Some songs went better than others, with the singers realizing with laughter that they didn’t know the words to “Deck the Halls.”
He, too, recalled visiting residents of nursing homes as a child and thought rekindling such a tradition was a special treat for everyone involved.
“It’s a great way to serve the community,” he said. “We’re all going to be here one of these days, and it’s nice to reflect and remember.”
This holiday season, the Daily Reporter celebrates those community members who it take it upon themselves to bring Christmas cheer to those who need it most.
The Jack Roysdon Memorial Foundation hosts its annual all-you-can-eat pasta dinner May 5 at Mt. Vernon High School, 8112 N. County Road 200W. Kinsey’s Italian Cafe in McCordsville will provide dinner, dessert and drinks. Tickets go on sale in January, and the $10 admission includes the above and entrance to the auction.