Even though people have to celebrate differently this year, some have taken it as an opportunity to get creative with how they spread holiday cheer.
For two months the staff and residents at Waterford Grand, an assisted living and memory care home in Eugene, made handmade light decorations for a display families could see from the comfort of their cars.
Participants were met at the end by Santa passing out packaged cookies, candy canes and hot cocoa to go.
“It’s intended to be something lighthearted because it’s been a hell of a year,” said Tim Biggs, who helps plan activities for the residents.
Biggs also is the driver for the residents, but has done much less driving this year because they aren’t leaving the facility due to COVID-19.
In fact, COVID-19 has forced many fun activities for the residents — like seeing entertainers or hearing from visiting book authors — to cease.
“Normally we have live music every day,” Activities Director Tracey Poupa said. “Things have really pared down and we thought, what can we do to really make a difference?”
So, they decided to set up the drive-through lights show and taught the residents how to create their own simple displays out of plastic hangers and string lights.
This weekend, there were 90 balconies at the facility with light decorations of various shapes: trees, stars and snowflakes. All were handmade by residents at the facility.
Poupa said one resident, who is legally blind, actually made 20 of the displays herself, building them all by touch.
“This has kept these folks busy,” Biggs said. “These are good people, and sometimes you feel like they’re being forgotten.”
The Year in Pictures:Marching for change
Leading up to the weekend, Poupa said they bought out all the extension cords at local dollar stores so they could light up all the decorative pieces around the building.
It paid off.
When the weekend came, there was a steady stream of cars with families coming to see the lights.
Children in masks and pajamas cheered as they drove up to the covered area at the end, yelling “Merry Christmas, Santa!” and insisting their names were on the nice list. Cars full of adults came through as well.
“We decided to come out because we like to look at the lights,” said Natasha Osterman. “We do this twice a week.”
Osterman said her family loves to look for lights every year and noticed there aren’t as many up in the community this year. They were grateful for the display.
It only got more animated as the night went on.
At about 7:30 p.m., a whole parade of Jeeps from the group Lane County Jeepers drove through, decked out in their own lights and holiday decorations, honking to the tune of “Jingle Bells” outside the care home.
They had no idea they would have so many people drive through, but Poupa was thrilled.
“The residents put so much work into those (lights),” Poupa said. “It’s so exciting.”
They decided to add another night of having Santa passing out treats, so families who missed out over the weekend can still drive through and see him Monday night.
The display will stay up past Monday for all who want to drive by and see. The facility is at 600 Waterford Way.