100 Westlake seniors surprised with stockings of cheer

Diana B. received a stocking outside of her apartment building delivered by Westlake Community Services program planner Jodi Rodriguez. Selfie picture taken by Jodi Rodriguez

The most widely held legend about the Christmas stocking links to St. Nicholas creatively helping a down-and-out widower. Knowing that this widower would refuse charity, the stealthy St. Nicholas slipped down the chimney of this man's home and snuck gold coins into the stockings hanging by the fireplace. The stockings provided a perfect receptacle for an unexpected bit of cheer.

Due to pronounced social isolation this year, the need for cheer is great. This thought prompted staffers from the Westlake Community Services department, along with the department's Community Advisory Council and Youth Board, to concoct a plan surprising 100 area seniors, St. Nicholas style.

Led by the fundraising and solicitation effort of the Advisory Council, 100 stockings were purchased and quickly filled with donations. The bounty included cookies, chocolates, hot cocoa, lip balm, hand sanitizers and handmade candles. One clever donor packaged four blank Christmas cards with envelopes and stamps encouraging the stocking recipients to continue to spread the joy to four of their friends.

The most prized items, however, came from our local youth. Westlake high schoolers from our Youth Board created personalized Christmas cards. Art students made name tags, and elementary school students made ornaments and crafts galore. The Westlake Elementary PTA motivated their children to produce enough crafts and cards for every stocking to have at least four unique items. As donations and items appeared, it was clear that this project shaped up to be a community-wide, and intergenerational activity.

The stockings were delivered on the Friday before St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, by Center staff. We identified 100 Center patrons whom we thought might be most in need of cheer. Our list began with people who experienced losses. Next we thought about those who live alone, and finally we added the names of some of our "regulars" who we haven't seen since this pandemic. 

The appreciation and gratitude from our recipients was well worth the effort. A good number of them called to say that the stocking arrived at "just the right time," as they were feeling particularly low at that moment.

One caller cried tears of gratitude, opening up about the terrible losses she suffered this year. Another stated she had been contemplating whether to finish decorating her tree, leaning toward a "no," but the special delivery changed her mind and mood. Yet another called gushing with so much enthusiasm she broke into song! 

The stockings did the job of providing some joy. They weren't filled with gold, but what they were filled with was efforts from a community that cares. That may even be better than gold.

As a footnote, we know that there are more than 100 seniors out there in need of cheer. We have ideas for future "surprises" and will look to identify 100 more seniors. If you are, or know of a senior who could benefit from this and other outreaches, please let us know. While our Center activities are closed to the public, we continue to be busy providing transportation, social services and virtual programs. We earnestly want to do what we can to help create a safety net and spread some cheer. Call us at 440-899-3544.

Lydia Gadd

I am the Director of the Senior and Community Services Department for the City of Westlake. I am also a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:54 AM, 12.15.2020