Volunteers spread CHEER to curb Christmas loneliness

 

GEORGETOWN — Spreading holiday cheer to home-bound seniors across Sussex County is a long-standing tradition through Operation Christmas CHEER.

With business and volunteer support, ham and turkey dinners packaged with gifts and other goodies were delivered to 243 clients who otherwise might have had nothing on Christmas but a day of silence and loneliness.

“There are so many people, seniors in our community that have nobody on Christmas and have no way or means to be able to celebrate Christmas. So for you giving of your time to brighten their day with a smile or a Merry Christmas wish, makes all the difference in the world,” said CHEER Executive Director Ken Bock during the bustling pickup and delivery time late Christmas morning at CHEER’s State Service Center home base. “You can’t even begin to put a value on that. What’s happening here today; this is going to be Christmas for 243 people. These people whose homes we are going to, they would have no one else, if it wasn’t for these volunteers going out there.”

Among the small army of volunteers were Don and Marie Evick of Rehoboth, who hadfour stops along Route 24.

“This is our third year. We don’t have children so we figure this makes Christmas for us, to get around and help people,” said Mr. Evick.

Ms. Evick added, “It helps me to be able to give the spirit of joy and peace to other people that do not have family.”

They were accompanied by Lexi, their Labrador retriever. “She is our helper. She points the way,” Mr. Evick said with a chuckle.

Besides dinner, each home-bound senior received a number of other gifts and goodies including a gender-appropriate wrapped gift, a bag of groceries through a donation from Food Lion, a Christmas card hand-made by elementary students and a poinsettia, courtesy of FFA chapters at Sussex Tech, Woodbridge and other schools.

Clients also received a lap blanket, handmade through a family connection with CHEER. For seniors with pets, there was even something for their furry friends.

Kimberly Anuszewski of Millsboro and daughter Nicole Anuszewski of Albany, N.Y., teamed up for six stops in the Bridgeville area. This was their rookie season with Operation Christmas CHEER, and they wore reindeer antlers.

“We just wanted to spread a little joy and just be here with all of those people,” said Kimberly Anuszewski. “They are so nice, with delivering and everything and making everybody so happy, I wanted to be part of that.”

Donations of food and gifts came from a number of businesses.

CHEER head cook Harry Cannon arrived at 7 Christmas morning.

“I just like to give back. You never know when you might be in that situation,” said Mr. Cannon, employed with CHEER for 10 years.

Volunteers pitching in included, among others: Georgetown Mayor Bill West and wife Faye, Sussex County Sheriff Robert Lee and wife Lori and Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Bob Wheatley.

CHEER, which serves several thousand seniors through its nutrition, transportation and other programs, has been producing Operation Christmas CHEER for more than 25 years.

“There are people in their 80s delivering. One of the great side stories is we have families that have made this part of their tradition. I have watched children coming in with their parents. Now these kids are home now from college break and are still doing this,” said Mr. Bock. “We have second generation and third generation in some cases, people who have made this part of their Christmas tradition year in and year out. It’s a big deal.”

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