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Surprise visit from Santa; Elders' Home residents get gifts from Ol' Saint Nick on Christmas Eve

Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Dorothy Helmrichs was happy to get gifts from Santa on Christmas Eve at the Elders' Home in New York Mills.

The 60 residents of Elders' Home and Heritage Manor in New York Mills made it onto Santa's 'good list' this year, prompting a visit from Ol' Saint Nick on Christmas Eve.

Santa, along with some local helpers, delivered presents, flowers and cookies to the residents as part of the Sixth Annual Adopt-A-Grandparent for Christmas.

"I appreciate it very much that we are thought of so much," said Dorothy Helmrichs after receiving her gift.

Helmrichs had been at the Elders' Home for two years. The 95-year-old was dressed in her Christmas sweater, waiting for her daughter to pick her up for an evening with family in Deer Creek.

But not all the residents had Christmas plans or visitors.

Molly Perry, coordinator of the Adopt-A-Grandparent event, said, "Although some of the residents have regular visitors, most of them do not."

That's part of the reason Perry began the Adopt-A-Grandparent for Christmas program.

When Perry learned that Santa would be able to join in on the festivities again this year, she knew it would give the evening some "extra Christmas spirit," she said.

After making his deliveries, Santa said, "The experience was heartwarming, and, at times, nearly overwhelming. The residents' expressions of joy and gratitude were conveyed through their eyes in a way that is difficult to describe."

Along with Perry, Santa had a whole crew of helpers including Tessa Braukmann, Deb Richter, Sally Richter and Jim Van Schaick. Perry's two young sons, six-year-old Maison and one-year-old Jaxton, helped Santa deliver presents, too.

"We try to involve children each year because it brings some extra smiles to the Elders' Home," Perry said.

Maison has helped his whole life. The event is so ingrained in him that now he anticipates the annual Christmas tradition.

"He asks, 'When are we going to bring presents to all the grandmas and grandpas at the nursing home?'" Perry said.

As Santa made his rounds this year, the helpers trailed after him, offering residents assistance in opening packages and also sharing in some conversation.

Perry, a Mary Kay director, along with Braukmann, owner of Designs by Tess, and Jann Lee, owner of the Whistle Stop Bed and Breakfast, has helped make the event a success year after year by contributing to the gifts.

More than 45 businesses and New York Mills area residents adopted a grandparent by sponsoring the purchase of a gift - Mary Kay lotions made for sensitive skin, a Christmas floral arrangement and Christmas baked goods.

Perry said she first heard of adopting a grandparent six years ago from another Mary Kay consultant, and thought she would try it for a year. She said it's gone well with a lot of community support.

And since the residents seemed to appreciate it, the one-time event became a Christmas tradition.