MINT HILL, NC – For five years, Mint Hill residents Bonnie Hovey and Angela Prince have been organizing holiday events at Mint Hill Senior Living. This year, the pandemic prevented Hovey and Price from celebrating many holidays with the seniors, including Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Halloween. But when it came to Christmas, Hovey and Prince were bound and determined to make it happen.
“COVID restrictions have made things so challenging for them,” says Price. The last ten months have been both challenging and isolating for everyone, but your average citizen has been able to leave their home to visit a store, get take-out, or enjoy a driveway visit with friends. Life has been different for the elderly living in facilities like Mint Hill Senior Living. At high risk of severe complications from the virus, they’ve gone the better part of a year confined to the facility and unable to hug, touch or even see friends and family.
“It’s been difficult specifically for our residents who returned to our building when we reopened in December,” says Business Office Manager Audra Jolly. “They had three months of being home before they were quarantined, so they are over it! Life has been harder for them with so much change and loss, whether it be that friends didn’t return or that we’ve lost them since we’ve been back.”
Normally, Hovey, Prince and others from the community visit Mint Hill Senior Living in person, distributing gifts and enjoying a meal with the seniors. Homeschooled children and their parents sing carols. This year, no one was allowed inside, but Hovey and Prince still found ways to rally the community to give the seniors a nice Christmas.
Mariann Taylor of Mint Hill Rockstore BBQ provided a full lunch of pulled pork and chicken sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese for all residents and staff. For dessert, residents enjoyed two sheet cakes decorated with festive poinsettias donated by Hovey and Prince and donut holes provided by Dunkin’ Donuts district manager April Burroughs. Lee, who heads up the kitchen at Mint Hill Senior Living, made her famous punch and coordinated the food.
Thanks to generous donations from the community, each of the 69 residents in attendance received a gift bag full of items like socks, scarves, face masks, bandanas, coloring books, gamebooks, pens/pencils/markers, candy and goodies, Christmas ornaments, stuffed animals, gloves, drink tumblers, blankets, toiletries. One Mint Hill resident even hand-made Christmas cards for every resident!
Although Hovey and Prince couldn’t go in the facility due to COVID restrictions, the unseasonably warm weather allowed them to “visit” with the residents from behind the patio’s glass doors. “Rex Hovey was Santa again this year, and he greeted everyone from the French door area,” says Prince. “The residents were so excited to see Santa. Even the 101-year-old resident walked over with her walker and assistance just to see him!”
Hovey sees her continued work with the residents at Mint Hill Senior Living as a mission. “I felt like this was a calling for me to help and do parties for the elderly because they are always forgotten during the year,” says Hovey, who first began working with the facility to plan a Christmas party five years ago. “I put it on ‘What’s Up Mint Hill?’ and Angela offered to help me. I love our seniors and will continue to do this as long as I can. It is wonderful to see the smiles of happiness on the faces of the seniors when you see them either doing parties or just any time. I would like to encourage folks when COVID is gone to come volunteer and get the same joy that we get.”
“We’re part of the family there now,” Prince continues. “Bonnie is tireless in what she has done — she continued to work on the events even through her two years of cancer treatments. She just called me already planning the Valentine’s Day event!”
When asked how we can all support the residents of Mint Hill Senior Living as well as all of our elderly family and friends, Jolly notes that different things inspire different people. “Some residents really thrive from window visits and FaceTime,” she says, “Some don’t understand – especially our memory care residents – and it’s stressful that they can’t touch or hug.”
There’s one thing that Jolly says everyone can enjoy: unexpected random acts of kindness. “Sending cards, care packages, and special treats always brings a smile to their faces!” she says. “Staying connected is so important,” adds Prince, “so that these people know they matter, that there are people who care. They need our help and that of the community to enjoy their senior years. Meaningful days are everything. Little things go a long way to being happier and inspired.”
Prince and Hovey would like to thank all the businesses and individuals in Mint Hill who helped to make the Christmas celebration at Mint Hill Senior Living possible: Mayor Brad Simmons and Renee Simmons, Ann Kean, Mary Beth Foster, Lauren Bagley, Gretchen D. Bagley, Nancy Olenski, David and Julie Andrews, April Burroughs (Dunkin’ Donuts) and Mariann Taylor (Mint Hill Rockstore BBQ).
Hovey and Prince are already brainstorming ways to help the seniors at Mint Hill Senior Living celebrate Valentine’s Day. Watch for announcements on the “What’s Up Mint Hill? The Original Group” Facebook Page to learn how you can help.