Each resident accepted a gift with a smile. They danced in their chairs to "Jingle Bell Rock" while eating their cookies and drinking their chocolate milk given to them by the special education class of Beverly Alaperet, a teacher with West Wilson Middle School.
Right inside the door of Providence Place of Mt. Juliet, an assisted living facility, on Wednesday stood several students nervously waiting to hand out the goodies they brought for the residents. Ryan McCarty, 14, a student in Alaperet's class, said he has been visiting Providence Place since he was a toddler. His mother, Marquita McCarty, is director there as well as The Gardens Memory Care, another assisted living home next door.
"I've been coming here since I was 4 years old," said Ryan. "I just help out the people, speak to them and help out with maintenance. I just want to help people."
Ryan and his classmates have been collecting items to put into gift bags since October. Alaparet said she told them it would be their decision as to whom they would like to bestow the gifts. Some of the items included blankets, socks and toiletries.
"The whole school donated and our kids put the gift bags together," said Alaperet. "This is our classroom event called Helping Hands and Ryan is the president of it. They could do what they wanted but they wanted to collect items for this assisted living home."
Alaperet said the children wrote down what they wanted to assemble then went to work trying to compile the items. Parents got involved with the project as well. Lisa Cohen, mother of student Dylan Cohen, said she likes to help any way she can.
"Whatever she needs help doing, I volunteer. I plan the parties," said Cohen. "I'm not the only one, there are others who help, too."
Elizabeth Danalds, another mother at the event, said she does not have a lot of time to help in the classroom but is happy to help in other ways.
"I help out some," said Danalds. "I usually help out on field trips and I come and eat lunch on Thursdays."
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After listening to the music, Alaperet instructed the students to start passing out the cookies and milk. With help from the volunteers, the students made sure no resident went without something to eat and drink.
"This went a lot smoother in the classroom," said Teacher Assistant Jenifer Jacob.
After refreshments came time to give the gift bags. Each student was chosen individually to take a bag and give it to the person of his or her choice. With a smile, the children walked through the room choosing residents at random and handing them a gift.
"This is the first time we have done this," said McCarty. When asked if she plans to do it again, she said, "definitely."
The residents spent the next hour talking to each other and laughing. Residential assistant Meagan O'Neil, whispered in the ear of a resident while she stroked her hair. She said she knows they are all having a good time.
"I think they all looked forward to this," said O'Neil. "They have a lot of fun, you know, having company. They really enjoy it."