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For 25 Years, Extension Homemakers Spread the 'Joy of Giving'
Kentucky Ag Connection - 12/13/2019

Before the tables were arranged, before the cookies were spread, before the doors were opened, residents of Pine Meadows Post Acute were lined up in the hallways, happy anticipation lighting their faces. Inside the activities hall, Fayette County Cooperative Extension Homemakers were preparing for the annual Joy of Giving, their county-wide gifting project that kicks off Christmas for residents at six local nursing homes.

This is the 25th anniversary of the Joy of Giving. One special anniversary is not really enough to describe the enthusiasm Extension Homemakers feel for the program, when approximately 800 residents in six nursing homes in Fayette County get to go "shopping" for themselves and for loved ones.

"This is a great opportunity for us to share the holiday spirit with those who perhaps don't get a visit or no longer have family close by," said Diana Doggett, Fayette County family and consumer sciences agent.

Barbara Marcus, president of Twin Oaks Club and co-coordinator of the program with Marilyn Codell, said the residents get a kick out of the event.

"I like to tell the story about one little man. Usually we have enough for two gifts per person. He came up and picked gifts for his two girlfriends, and we wrapped them for him. Later, he came back and asked, 'Do you think I could have another gift? I have three girlfriends,'" Marcus laughed. "We have a lot of fun with them, and we feel like we do a service for them that makes them feel good at Christmas. There's no word for how it makes us feel. It's better than Christmas."

For an hour, while Homemakers wrapped and labeled packages, sang a few Christmas carols, and handed out cookies and punch, the line through the door was steady. Pine Meadows employees escorted folks in their wheelchairs to the tables, which were laden with items for men, women and children. They helped them try on knit headbands and pompom hats, ahhing and ooing over how beautiful something made someone look.

"People have been waiting for this day, because they (Extension Homemakers) come faithfully every year to bring all these awesome gifts. A lot of people don't have opportunities to share with their family, so it's a joy to get something they can give to their loved ones. We are so grateful. We are blessed," said Paulette Baker, Pine Meadows activities coordinator.

Everyone went away with one or two gifts, one for themselves and one to give to a loved one.

"We set up gift stations and the patients come out and they 'shop,'" said Alyce Emerson, president of Fayette County Extension Homemakers. "They can shop for their grandchildren, they can shop for their caregivers or for other family members. No cost. For about an hour, they get to experience Christmas."

As soon as Christmas is over this year, members of the 20 Homemaker clubs in Fayette County will plunge back into the shopping fray, taking advantage of after-Christmas sales to start replenishing their supply of presents for next year. Goods like knit hats, scarves, socks, and University of Kentucky paraphernalia stack up over the year in the closets and basements of volunteers.

Many Homemakers spend their own money to purchase the items for the giveaway, but with more than 1,000 gifts needed this year, Fayette County Extension also requested help from the community.

"When we did that, we were amazed at the response. We got no less than 400 gifts from the community-at-large this year," Doggett said. "One local law firm offered a Casual Friday to their members, if they donated to the project. With the $200 they raised, we were able to buy UK paraphernalia, which are always our most popular gift items."

Joy of Giving, with its ties to the community, exemplifies the mission of Extension Homemakers.

"We're all about community work, volunteerism and giving back," Emerson said.

If individuals or companies are interested in contributing to next year's Joy of Giving, contact Doggett at the Fayette County Cooperative Extension office at 859-257-5582.

UK Cooperative Extension Service is part of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which is dedicated to improving people's lives through excellence in education, research and outreach.

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