Gift of giving: Volunteers deliver holiday cheer to Sussex seniors

GEORGETOWN – One of Cheyanne Williams’ Christmas wishes is that 2-year-old son Cayden will someday be part of a family holiday tradition that delivers holiday cheer to homebound senior citizens.

CHEER kitchen staff and volunteers: Art Lofland, Lorenzo Bynes, Kevin Dennis, Harry Cannon, Baron Harmon – all members of Sons of Isaacs Masonic Lodge No. 8.

If – or when – Cayden does, he’ll be the fourth generation in support of Operation Christmas CHEER. And he’d follow in the footsteps of his mom, grandmother Tina Williams, aunt Kathy Mason and great-grandmother Florence Mason, CHEER’s nutrition supervisor who facilitated the Christmas Day event 25 years ago.

“I hope that my son will take the experience; what it means to give back,” said Cheyanne. “That is very important in our family. I have been here since I was a child. So, giving back to those that are less fortunate is the main, important thing, especially for people that don’t have families on Christmas. It’s all about you don’t want them to feel alone. You want them to feel as holly and jolly as you do.”

On a brisk, windy Christmas morning, upward of 80 volunteers funneled into CHEER’s headquarters at the Thurman Adams State Service Center in Georgetown. They picked up care packages – hot turkey/ham dinners, wrapped gender-appropriate gifts, fruit baskets, poinsettias, Christmas cards personalized by elementary school students and other goodies – and delivered them to 270 seniors across Sussex County.

This was the fourth Operation Christmas CHEER for volunteers Marie and Don Evick of Rehoboth. They left with five packages for delivery to four women and one man.

“The main thing is I want to give back some cheer and hope to people. And by doing that I even receive that myself,” said Ms. Evick.

Four recipients in the Milford area were the delivery destinations for Larry Savage, among the handful of rookie delivery volunteers this year. He said he learned of Operation Christmas CHEER as a member of the Sussex County Advisory Committee on Aging & Adults with Physical Disabilities.

“I heard about it and said I’d like to get involved and be a part of it,” said Mr. Savage. “I love working with seniors, encouraging them, because I know someday I probably will need someone to bring a meal to me. So, I want to reach out and do all I can to help our seniors. So many of them are forgotten. And they feel lonely and they don’t have anybody to come by to visit them. When I first retired I did Meals on Wheels for the CHEER Center in Milton. It’s very rewarding. You are helping them, but you are also encouraging yourself. So, I am thankful to be able to help and give back to the community.”

Georgetown Mayor Bill West had two deliveries: a couple lodged through assistance at the Classic Motel. Their mobile home had been condemned.  “He’s blind, and she is in a wheelchair,” Mayor West said.

Ken Bock, CHEER’s CEO, thanked volunteers and the CHEER staff, multiple times.

“I thank you for coming out here today, for making Christmas CHEER part of your Christmas celebration,” said Mr. Bock. “It means so very much to the people out here that you are going to see. For senior citizens, individuals around Sussex County, we are providing Christmas – you are providing Christmas – for each and every one of those people who may not have any other friends, any other family, certainly no Christmas presents to unwrap, a hot Christmas meal. And all that you bring to them: somebody, just to be a kind face to wish people a Merry Christmas who have nothing else this holiday. I cannot underestimate the importance to each and every one of you in the lives of these people.”

Hot meals were prepared by CHEER’s kitchen staff, headed by manager Harry Cannon. They also happen to be members of the Sons of Isaacs Mason Lodge No. 8.

Gifts were made possible through collection/donation efforts of businesses and organizations.

Pet food was also delivered to seniors for with pets.

“There are a lot of organizations throughout this county that have donated their gifts,” said Florence Mason. “We thank you for coming out. We have a lot of new volunteers this year. Some people you volunteers are the only person they are going to see today.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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