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Elves deliver holiday joy to Elmcrest


Children in Elmcrest's Cottage Seven rip into their gifts on Christmas morning.

The holidays were merry and bright for children served by Elmcrest, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of people who provided Christmas presents.

“It restores hope for the kids,” said Janene Bartell, who coordinates the fulfillment of wishlists from Elmcrest’s 60 residential children. “They know that people in the community care about them, that they’re not forgotten.”

Donors also gave gifts to make Christmas special for other children served by Elmcrest. Board members adopted 61 families of children receiving Elmcrest's community-based services. Another 40 children in Elmcrest’s inclusive early education program also received gifts.

Each on-campus child received at least five gifts, and they are truly grateful, said Mike Rouse, program supervisor for Cottage Seven, where nine children between the ages of eight and 12 live. Besides unwrapping presents, the children's big day included three home-cooked meals (including make-your-own pizza), holiday movies, and lots of playing with new toys and activity kits while listening to holiday music, Mike said.  At one point, a nine-year-old boy stood up and clapped his hands for attention, Mike said.

“He said, ‘I’d like to take a moment to thank the staff for cooking for us, setting up all these activities and making sure we had a good day,’” Mike said. The other children clapped in appreciation.

Many of the children in Elmcrest’s care have never enjoyed holiday traditions many people take for granted, Janene said.

“Some of these children have never had the experience of decorating a tree,” Janene said. “They haven’t made Christmas cookies or sipped hot cocoa while listening to Christmas music. They deserve that.”

All of Elmcrest’s residential children are overcoming major life challenges. Fostering a sense of gratitude is one way Elmcrest helps them through that process. That’s why every child on campus will write notes and cards of thanks to each donor who provided contact information to Elmcrest, Janene said.

Dozens of people volunteered to become Elmcrest Elves this year. They bought more than 90 gifts from Elmcrest’s Amazon charity gift list. The gifts were delivered directly to Elmcrest. Elves also provided more than $3,000 in cash donations to buy additional gifts. The outpouring eclipsed the first Elmcrest Elves effort in 2020, Janene said.

Mike Dube, also known as “Motorcycle Santa,” has collected and delivered gifts to Elmcrest children for many years. This year, he arrived with about 300 gifts – more than ever before.

For many years, several companies and other organizations have been pooling their efforts to make significant deliveries of gifts and holiday treats to Elmcrest. Elmcrest is especially grateful this year to our friends at Pioneers Excelsior Chapter, AT&T, EJ, Fust Charles Chambers, Haylor Freyer & Coon, Nixon Gear, Brookside Consultants, St. Ann’s Church, and the Hart & Tay Train Foundation.

“People have really stepped up this year,” Janene said. “They love knowing that they’re providing the exact gifts our kids are really hoping to get for Christmas.”  

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