It was bitterly cold on Saturday morning when I set out for New York State Veterans’ Home in Oxford, but I didn’t mind. I had my signature Delivering Christmas apron, and the glowing warmth of the holiday spirit, to keep me warm.
Why was I heading down to the facility at such an early hour? Why, to volunteer, of course.
Each year, the women of the 6th District American Legion Auxiliary and a crew of dedicated volunteers from Chenango, Broome and surrounding counties bring Christmas to the 242 residents of the Vets’ Home. And I mean “bring” literally.
Led by District President Mary Smallcomb and Field Services Representative Pat Konopka, they arrive with a truckload of totes loaded with clothes, toys and household items in every conceivable size, shape and color. These items are arranged on tables to allow residents to do their Christmas “shopping,” whether it is to pick up items for loved ones or for themselves. All of it is provided to the residents free of charge, and then wrapped by volunteers.
This was my second year helping out with the event. That’s right, I loved it so much I came back for more. Last year, before the move to the new building, it had been held in the old facility’s large multi-purpose room. Gifts were displayed on tables arranged in a big square, with open space in the middle, thus allowing the wheelchairs to circle on the outside and volunteers to restock and assist from the inside. Those doing the wrapping, and writing out greeting cards, were located inside the room. Residents were queued up outside in the hallway, waiting to take their turn around the heavily-laden gift tables.