Throughout the years, the holidays have always been a huge part of the culture at Ark City Presbyterian Manor. The community started many traditions when it first opened its doors in 1978, which it continues today. Then other traditions were added in later years.
Connie Bruner, housekeeping supervisor, began her career in 1984, and reflects that the Presbyterian Manor family has always hosted a holiday dinner. “That tradition hasn’t changed. We have always invited families to join the residents for a special dinner between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Each year the residents look forward to the holiday dinner and enjoy inviting their loved ones to the community to experience this special occasion. The dining services and activities departments begin planning for this event months in advance to ensure that the guests have a fantastic experience. The team serves about 350 meals that evening. In addition, on Thanksgiving and Christmas days, the dining services team serves the traditional meals to those residents and families who choose to dine at the Presbyterian Manor.
Another tradition that all families partake in—and the Presbyterian Manor is no different—is putting up the Christmas tree. However, unlike your home, we decorate most of the shared spaces and have 15 Christmas trees to decorate. Each of the trees are decorated differently with the guidance of residents and staff living and working in certain areas.
“I am sure that the number of trees has increased over the years,” said Sarah Griggs, executive director. “Just since I started in 2000, we have added at least six areas with decorations and/or trees. Each is beautiful and unique from the others. We just want to make sure that no matter where you reside and where families gather during the holiday season that there is the holiday spirit present.”
Our community hosts one celebration each year that is always near and dear to all of our hearts. That is the celebration of life. At the beginning of the season, the Presbyterian Manor family invites past families to celebrate the lives of those we have lost in the past year.
“At the beginning of the celebration, the tree in the chapel is undecorated, but at the end of the celebration it is the most beautiful tree in our community,” said Sarah.
Jo Carolyn Chambers, former director of social services, created the vision of the celebration of life approximately 20 years ago and reflects on the celebration.
“We started [the celebration] as a way to remember and honor those that we served and loved as well as the impact they made in each of our lives. Many residents become like family and having the celebration of life provides that special time of reflection and gratitude for the way that our lives were touched. For the families, the celebration of life allows them a chance to also reflect and remember as well as share with the caregivers.”
The celebration of life tree remains lit at the front of the chapel for the entire holiday season. It is not unusual for individuals to stop in during the day simply to look at the ornaments on the tree. The first ornaments used were gold stars each with a name of a resident who had passed. Today, we use ornaments with pictures of each resident. If you ask the Presbyterian Manor family, the celebration of life tree is the most precious tree in our community.
PHOTO: Peggy Good hangs an ornament in memory of her father, Wayne Rector, in 2017.