It’s that “most wonderful time of the year,” the seasonal songs tell us. We’re in the thick of Advent, the days which foreshadow the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.
But the celebratory holiday mood has been infected by concerns over coronavirus and other maladies. For many in the community, Christmas will be spent remembering the loved ones who have been taken from our midst.
But Christmas is greater than the darkness of sickness, sorrow and death. The Christmas spirit is shining bright in Kodiak, which has seen a troubling spike in COVID-19 cases. Various churches, individuals and organizations are making Christmas of 2020 a memorable one, and a bright one too.
Singers of St. John the Wonderworker Academy broke into joyful Christmas caroling while customers ate their breakfast at the restaurant. Someone in the community initiated a project called Light the Rock, which encouraged people to extravagantly decorate their homes. Several churches got together to present a drive-through Nativity at the Bells Flats fairground where people sat in the comfort of their cars, witnessing scenes of the Christmas story narrated by Matt Freeman.
Vivian LeDoux and her daughters, Amanda and Breanna, and others decided to brighten the lives of residents of the Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center Elder House, who have been without loved ones due to COVID restrictions.
Vivian and her daughters have launched the Christmas Card Project in which community members can send cards to Elder House residents by dropping them off at locations around town, including Bases Loaded, Ardingers, Himark Marine Fabrication and the public library. People can either address the card to specific Elder House residents or send them generically.
“Amanda’s been picking up cards and dropping them off,” said Vivian. “We’ve gotten such a huge response. We want (the Elder House residents) to know that they’re not alone.”
Vivian has a special place in her heart for the Elder House, where her husband and the girls’ father Jeff LeDoux is a resident.
The residents have “been pretty much exiled to a building and not having that one-on-one with their family,” she said, adding that through the Christmas card project, people can have contact “in a different way.”
“It’s so hard that we haven’t had that nurturing of holding hands, the kisses on the cheek, helping out with the daily care of a loved one,” Vivian said. “You can’t do that. Getting these cards in their rooms” is the second best thing to that personal contact.
Breanna, who works as an instructor assistant at an Oregon elementary school, said she came up with the idea of sending cards after wondering how she could help make Christmas extra-special for her dad and his fellow residents,who were not able to have family by their side.
“I talked to Amanda and mom about it. (The idea) took off from there,” said Breanna. The ladies got approval for the project from Anne Marie Narog, a nurse at the Elder House.
“The outpouring from the community has been overwhelmingly wonderful,” said Vivian. “It’s taken off more than we thought it would. It filled our hearts (to know that) so many people are wanting to give back to these residents, trying to get them involved in the community as a whole.”
Even children have contributed. Vivian’s grandchildren and Hadji Wight’s 6-year-old son Kaizik made their own Christmas cards to send to the Elder House.
Breanna said that not only Kodiak people have gotten involved in the project.
“A teacher in Hawaii asked if (making the cards) could be an art project,” Breanna said, adding that she also had a friend in New Zealand who wanted to help out.
That kindness “speaks volumes,” she said.
Vivian said it’s heart shattering to know that her husband is spending holidays and birthdays alone, but sending Christmas cards is “something we can do (to make sure) he’s getting that extra attention and extra light.”
Vivian takes consolation in knowing that the Elder House residents are cared for by qualified, caring personnel.
“When you have family members in a situation, being without family, the staff become their family,” she said.
With that special care and the flow of Christmas cards, these Elder House residents will know that they’re not forgotten.