Residents at Generations of Spencer receive Christmas hugs from Lifers Program

Posted By | December 4, 2018 1:16 pm

By Hansel Moore

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and soon there will be presents under the tree. Children (and some adults) will be anticipating the joy of unwrapping Christmas gifts to reveal the treasures inside.

There is one group in Van Buren County that is already excited for Christmas Eve. The residents of the Generations of Spencer long-term care facility have been the recipients of a little elf magic, before turkey day.   An unexpected gift arrived as a check in the mail made out to the facility. Its specific purpose was to make Christmas brighter for the people who call the facility home.

“Many of our residents don’t have family, really no one to visit with them or provide for them around the holidays,” explained Sandy Collins, director of activities. “We become their family and try to provide what we can. We were just talking about how we were going to work out this Christmas, and out of the blue someone contacted us.”

That someone is an unlikely neighbor, the inmates at the Bledsoe correctional facility who refer to themselves as the “Lifers Club” – individuals not eligible for parole and in all probability who will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

“When they called, they explained that they wanted to help people who are in the area,” said Collins. “I had never heard of this program until just this past week, and it is amazing,” said Collins. “They are people who could be very angry about everything, but this is a positive way that they can give back.”

It was obvious that the gesture had reached a Christmas miracle status.

Each year, the Lifers Program chooses a select number of organizations that help others in the community and assist them by providing a financial gift. The past two years, the effort has raised over $20,000 dollars to be gifted to a number of selected recipients. The amount designated to each beneficiary is calculated and chosen by the members of the Lifers Program.   Each incarcerated individual who participates in the program has made a conscientious choice in showing compassion toward others. In all probability, for people whom they have never met.   It is a way for them to symbolically be with an adoptive family, and share the meaning of Christmas – if only in their dreams.

“Every year, we do a Christmas Angel program here where people come in and get a resident to buy Christmas for,” Explained Buffy Gaither, administrator. “We are a non-profit organization, and appreciate the excellent support that we receive from the community. There are a number of organizations who step up and help every year.”

The Angel Program will be available this year for anyone in the community who would desire to sponsor a resident at the facility. If you would like to add to the “community hug” bestowed upon the special group at Generations, contact the facility at (931) 946-7768.

“This year is going to be extra special for our residents,” said Collins, with excitement.

Gaither concurred, “Some of the residents have special requests, and the money provided will help us make those special things happen. A few would just like to go out and see a movie. Last year, one of the resident’s life-long dreams was to sing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.”

She shared a picture of a very happy senior on the Grand Ole Opry stage, grinning from ear to ear, his dream fulfilled.

“This donation is going to help every resident at some level,” she said.

The people of Generations in Spencer can be described by one word, family. So Christmas Eve, as for so many others around the world, will be spent with family. Staff, volunteers, and visitors will gather to help residents unwrap the gifts that are chosen specifically for them. Holiday decorations, music, and hot chocolate will add to the celebration and leave no doubt that the season of giving has arrived on the mountain.

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