Parade of love

Community comes together in force for parade to connect with isolated Lutheran Sunset Ministries residents

CLIFTON – For the senior citizens, a visit by a grandchild with artwork made in school or a former neighbor just dropping by with some fresh-baked cookies makes their day, even their week.

But in the grasp of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes and assisted living facilities were shut down for visitors, in order to protect the population’s most vulnerable group – the elderly are at a higher risk for severe illness. Sadly, this leads to increased social isolation and loneliness to a group already dealing with a smaller social world.

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Lutheran Sunset Home residents and caregivers hold up signs for the vehicles passing by in the parade April 29 (above).

In an effort to compensate for the loss of social interaction with family and friends, the Lutheran Sunset Ministries activity department – Amy Arthur-White, Mildred Martinez, Brenda Olsen and Carolyn Holt – continues to keep the residents busy with all sorts of activities and ideas.

But none have been quite like the parade rolled out for LSM residents on April 29 – one of their largest endeavors to date. And rest assured, it proved to be a success for everybody involved.

For about 50 Sunset Home residents, their smaller social world transformed instantly into a feel-good world of love, peace and happiness the moment they were rolled out into the sunshine of a beautiful, crisp spring morning. There were colorful handmade pom-poms, heartfelt signs, balloons dancing in the breeze, flags flying, pretty sun bonnets, playful honks, and lots of air hugs to lift up their spirits.

“We felt our residents needed to get out a bit, even if it is just for a moment” Activities Department member Brenda Olsen said. “Everybody has been very excited about this parade.”

Each and every one of the nearly 100 decorated vehicles – cars, golf carts, ATV’s, police cars, fire trucks, jeeps, classic pickups and convertibles – that came by showed the deep compassion of a wonderful community coming together to support each other. Safely distancing from the passengers in the cars, the residents could enjoy the passersby’s smiles and happy faces. Some family dogs even joined in the fun. The residents returned the outpouring of love with waves, air kisses and enthusiastic “whoo-hoos.”

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The sea of signs held up by the residents said it all – “Air Hugs to You,” “We Love You,” “Blow me a Kiss,” “Heroes Work Here,” “Be Safe Out Here,” “We Got This,” “Too Blessed to be Stressed,” “I’m Here for the Entertainment,” and “Keep the Faith.”

In return, the cars waved back with slogans like “Keep Safe,” “We Love You, Grandma,” “We Miss You,” “I Share My Mom With Heckmann,” “Thank You Sunset, Hi Mom,” “You are a Hero,” “Thank You LSM,” “You Are Loved,” “God Bless All,” “We Love you, MeeMaw,” “Have a Great Day,” “Prayers for All,” “Stay Strong, Stay Safe, “Be Happy,” “Go Away COVID,” “The Key to Health is Happiness,” and “A Better Day Will Come and We Will Be Back Soon.”

Clearly, those participating in the parade love the local retirement home, assisted living and nursing home. And during the parade, that support and appreciation proved well-founded as they saw the LSM administration and healthcare employees constantly making sure the residents were comfortable, helping hold up a sign, getting an extra blanket or making sure a face mask was on correctly – generally taking care of their needs and happiness.

Prior to the parade, LSM employees have been helping residents with Facetime, Skype and Zoom calls with family to keep them in touch. And especially, to let residents know that their families miss them, too.

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Likewise, the parade was only one of many organized events. Creative and loving people had already put together special moments, like bringing out goats and ponies for residents to admire safely from behind the glass. There was an ice cream cart in the hallways as a fun treat to break the routine. And some employees transformed into beauticians, offering haircuts and styling.

A quote on the LSM Facebook page by Coretta Scott King – Martin Luther King’s widow – summarizes the emotion of the moment: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

On Wednesday, the Bosque County community showed its greatness, with the genuine and profound outpouring of love, support and appreciation for the LSM residents and healthcare workers.

It proved to be a true tear-jerker event indeed, in the best of ways.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

©2020 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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