When 89-year-old Valrie Anderson celebrates Christmas, she always keeps nursing home residents in mind, personally making and delivering more than 200 gift bags to local facilities.
“I’ve been doing it now for 15 to 20 years,” the Elysian Fields resident said.
“I fix the bags to give to the nursing home because it’s so pitiful, that during Christmastime, Mother’s Day, nobody ever goes and spends time with them,” she said. “But God always has a ram in the bush, and therefore I must be the ram in the bush because I fix up the bags.”
Anderson said years ago she served as an ombudsman, checking on residents at nursing homes for six years. Her heart always went out to the residents, who are often forgotten about by family.
“They have children and they don’t come and see about their own folks,” said Anderson. “It hurts me to my heart. I took it upon myself to go and see about them.”
Anderson makes her rounds every year to Marshall Manor. She recently added Heritage House to her delivery route.
“It makes me feel good because the Lord is so good,” the mother, grandmother and great grandmother said.
The Christmas bags prepared by Anderson consist of fresh oranges and apples, a pair of cozy socks, a Christmas card, wash cloth and other treats. Anderson’s former co-worker Gladys Greathouse, who is now her caregiver, enjoys helping her prepare gift baskets for the nursing homes.
“This year it’s smaller because of the pandemic,” Greathouse said. “Last year she had a living room and bedroom full (of Christmas bags).”
Anderson said she’s glad to have the help of her family, caregiver, friends and members of the community who support her efforts annually. She sends a typed letter out each year, addressed to the community, church, family and friends, asking for donations to help sponsor the gift bags.
“Help me share Christmas in nursing homes this year,” the letter states. “Give a few dollars for gift bags to be given to many in Marshall nursing homes at Christmas. Love is to be shown.”
Anderson said she wasn’t sure how she’d reach her goal this year, due to the pandemic, but she did, thanks to her caregiver, who helped purchase the last boxes of fruit.
“I said, Lord, it’s in your hands,” Anderson shared. “I’m so happy my provider came. I tell you one thing; God is good all the time.”
Greathouse said the expression on residents’ faces each year is always priceless. And although they couldn’t personally go inside this year due to the pandemic, it still warmed Anderson’s heart to be able to meet nursing home staff outside the door to deliver the Christmas bags.
“I feel good. I’ve done something to help somebody that can’t help themselves,” said Anderson.
While delivering the bags to Marshall Manor Tuesday, employee Angela Powell expressed how much the nursing home residents appreciate the generosity, particularly during this time of pandemic.
“They can’t see their families like they want to, and that makes a lot of them depressed. They’ve been confined to their rooms, hadn’t been able to get out until a couple of weeks ago because of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines. So, they appreciate whatever we do, whatever anybody can bring in.”
“That puts a big smile on their face,” said Powell.
The gift bag deliveries added to Tuesday’s Christmas celebration at Marshall Manor as residents had already enjoyed a Polar Express themed party to celebrate the holidays.
“It was a blessing,” said Powell.
Anderson is grateful to be able to help.
“I thank the Lord,” she said. “I ask the Lord to help me do something to help somebody every day of my life, regardless of race, (etcetera) — even if it’s just a phone call.
“If I can give them a piece of bread, a glass of water, then my living is not in vain,” said Anderson. “The Good Lord is good to me. I thank him for everything.”