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Secret Santas Visit The House

January 3, 2020

We think of the holidays as being filled with merriment and joy, but it can also be a difficult time of the year for many. Family moves away or loved ones pass and those left behind – especially the elderly – can feel the ache of loneliness.

The House of the Good Shepherd Retirement Community in Hackettstown always does its best to make sure its residents are filled with the wonder and joy of the season, but this year residents received an extra special Christmas surprise: gifts from the Greater community, thanks to the efforts of a nearby family.

On Dec. 22, dozens of residents at the House gathered in The Lodge, decorated for Christmas with a trimmed tree and garland, to open gifts. Circled around the room, they took turns opening festively decorated presents, which ranged from books to plush blankets and even included a foot massager! Though the gift exchange was a White Elephant – a game in which those opening gifts can “steal” and swap others’ presents – everyone was happy with their unexpected gifts.

“The mood was wonderful,” said Shannon Morgan, Recreation Director at the House. “Everyone was smiling, myself included! It was such an amazing way to share holiday cheer and we are so pleased that our residents got to take part.”

Five of those smiling faces included the coordinators of the collection: Stacy Bockbrader, of Allamuchy, and her daughters, Rayna, 13, Grayce, 8, Clara, 6, and Caroline, 3. They were joined by several other children and their family members for the gift event.

Stacy knows how hard the holidays can be for seniors, and her daughters were eager to participate.

“I didn’t want them to feel forgotten by their community during the holidays,” she said, adding that we owe a lot to our older generations: “The elderly paved the way for us, which in turn paves the way for our children.”

She and her husband, Nick, a New Jersey State Trooper, have been raising their daughters to not only be leaders, she said, but to be helpers for those who need a hand. The girls, who attend the Allamuchy school system, were eager to help.

They knew a big response was required to ensure there were enough presents for any resident who needed one. Prepared to make flyers and advertise their endeavor if needed, it turned out that all they needed was a single Facebook post sharing that they planned to donate gifts to the retirement community and should anyone else be interested to please let them know. That and the gift of gab.

Gifts started appearing.

“They left them on my porch, dropped them at my work,” Stacy gushed. “We even had parents send gift donations in [to school] with their children to give to the girls.”

In all, 80 gifts were donated by individuals, families, and groups that included the Sussex 4H Club, Blairstown Animal Hospital, where Stacy has worked for the past 18 years, and the Stepping Stone Farm in Allamuchy, where her daughters take riding lessons.

Residents and Secret Santas take a moment for a picture during the gift event. Photo provided.

“My heart is so full,” Stacy said, and, added, “It taught the girls if we all get together, look what we can do!”

She was quick to point out that the collection wouldn’t have been possible alone and that everyone who turned out and donated deserves credit for making this celebration possible.

As for the future? Stacy and her daughters are excitedly brainstorming activities for spring and summer to allow a continued connection with the residents of The House of the Good Shepherd.

The House is located at 798 Willow Grove Street and offers an array of living options for seniors, from independent and assisted living to skilled nursing care. They also offer short term post-hospital stays, all in a beautiful setting along the banks of the Musconetcong River.