Caring for Christmas

Cheney Care Center staff help provide holiday cheer to residents, community


John McCallum

Ornament pictures of residents adorn the Christmas tree at the Cheney Care Center, part of the center's efforts to make the holiday season festive.

Christmas, in fact any major holiday, can be a lonely time if someone doesn't have friends or family nearby.

Staff at Cheney Care Center, however, have made sure that won't happen to any of their 54 residents. They've also tried to do what they can to help residents in Cheney who might be struggling with needs this holiday season – something activity lead Kris Bahr said is all about thanking the community for its support.

For the second year in a row, Care Center staff have undertaken what Bahr referred to as "Cheney's Winter Wonderland." For starters staff are assigned a specific area of the center to decorate in any holiday-theme they can come up with, with creativity strongly stressed. The areas are then judged, with the top three point-getters awarded prizes at the monthly staff meeting.

Bahr said the various wings and rooms, like the physical therapy room, are assigned so that all department staff and shifts are allowed to take part if they so desire. Staff doing the decorating have access to all of the center's materials like Christmas trees and decorations and garland, with many purchasing additional materials themselves.

The latter was evident in the contest-winning wing, dubbed "Peppermint Path." Staff members Jackie Zusman, Nancy Guerrero, Jessica Marvin, Nicky Kvalnes, Jamie Koonce, Lincoln Palmer, Hannah Piazza and Erin Statzer not only hung bows, ribbon and ornaments but festooned the walls with actual miniature pieces of candy and used a variety of color materials to create larger candy canes, lollipops and popular candy bars.

The decorating contest began two years ago when resident council president Joan Spilker told Bahr she should stop doing all the decorating herself.

"Everybody should be involved," Spilker said.

The Christmas feeling goes even further than decorating the center. Bahr said every staff member "adopts" a resident by drawing names after Thanksgiving, and then going out and spending at least $10 on a gift for that resident. The gift is something the resident needs or enjoys doing, such as clothes, grooming kits and even puzzles – crossword and tabletop – for residents who love doing them.

"All my residents got at least two gifts," Bahr said.

The center also took their giving beyond their front door this year by holding a food drive for the Cheney Food Bank. Bahr said they donated over 700 items last Friday, which she said is a way for the center to acknowledge and say thank you to the community for its support over the years.

"Not only are you helping the elderly in the Cheney Care Center, but many elderly in Cheney," Bahr told her staff at last Thursday's monthly meeting.

John McCallum

Cheney Care Center staff Jackie Zusman, Nancy Guerrero, Jessica Marvin, Nicky Kvalnes and Jamie Koonce are pictured at the entrance to the first-place "Peppermint Path" themed wing they decorated for residents. Also on the team but not pictured are Lincoln Palmer, Hannah Piazza and Erin Satzer.

Finally, there was also something for the staff. Every non-perishable food item they brought in for the food drive earned them a ticket for a drawing for a number of gift certificates at the all-staff party Dec. 12.

Staff also got a chance to earn a little extra holiday cash as well. Bahr said each month the care center goes without a work-related injury or accident resulting in time lost, $20 is put in an envelope.

Those envelopes accumulate and are passed out monthly at the staff meeting, i.e. six months means six envelopes distributed, seven months means seven envelopes, etc. At last Thursday's meeting, staff members' names were drawn for 17 envelopes each containing $20, reflecting almost a year and half without an accident or injury.

"Which is extremely hard to do," Bahr said.

Staff awards aside, most at last Thursday's meeting shared the same feeling as Bahr, that it's about providing a comfortable, festive environment for the residents, some who don't have family nearby or that visit much.

"We're their family, and that's the important thing," Bahr said.

John McCallum can be reached at


Reader Comments