Eight students from National College, Youngstown Campus, and their instructor played Santa for six residents of Shepherd of the Valley Niles on Dec. 21.
The students, from the Surgical Technology Program, will earn associate degrees in applied sciences upon graduation. As part of their studies, students are required to perform community service.
"The reason we chose to do this is because so often in today's medical world, patients end up being a number," said surgical technology director Debra Romeo. "They are the 'second gall bladder' or the hernia with the IV issues. We constantly remind our students, especially in the OR, that the [person] under the blue sheet is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. This is one way for them to connect on a different, non-academic level with those we serve."
The students visited residents who do not have family living in the area.
"Christmas can be a lonely time of year when you don't have family around," said Kim Osborn, Shepherd of the Valley-Niles Activity Director. "These students will make a world of difference and we are thankful to them for spending time with our residents."
The students surprised residents with special gifts that they hand-selected.
"I was shocked," said Shepherd resident Audrey Sheffler. "I never expected anything like this. It certainly was nice of them."
Gifts include candy, treats, crossword puzzle books, body spray and other items in addition to a special gift chosen for each resident. Scarves, gloves, blankets and other accessories also were added to ensure each resident had things they needed as well as wanted.
Sheffler said the contents of the packages definitely will be a surprise since she didn't make a Christmas list this year.
"They really enjoyed doing this, even though everyone goes home teary-eyed," Romeo said.
Past projects have included a glove campaign for the battered women shelters and local food drives, and Romeo said the students choose a different facility each time.