WEST COLUMBIA, W.Va. — The holidays can be a lonely time of year for those who have no family, but thanks to the local community, the residents at Lakin Hospital are assured a Merry Christmas.
Once again, the state hospital is hosting its “Operation Santa Claus” program, which affords the public the opportunity to provide gifts for the residents.
According to Darlene Ash, hospital activities supervisor, the hospital normally has a census of around 95 residents. Ash added that the population is pretty even, with just a few more women than men. She said the facility is seeing younger residents coming in all the time, with several in their thirties and forties.
“We have a lot in our facility from other areas of the state, like Wheeling and Elkins, so if they do have family, they can’t visit often,” Ash said. “We also have a lot who are wards of the state and have no one.”
Though Ash has been the activities supervisor only since April, she said she has worked at Lakin for the past 10 years. Ash added the patients “don’t want for anything” on Christmas morning.
“It is amazing the amount of outside support we get,” Ash said. She added while the facility itself does put back some funds to shop for the residents, they still depend on the generosity of the community.
The hospital is also open for groups and organizations to come in and entertain the residents. Ash said there are still available dates, with groups usually coming in around 6:30 p.m., after dinner. They can either stand in the center of the hospital and sing, or stroll up and down each unit. To schedule group singing, Ash can be reached at 304-675-0860 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The options of needed and wanted items for Christmas are many, but Ash said puzzle books, coloring books and crayons, and sweat clothes are very popular. She said pillows are not needed this year because an organization recently brought in 100 pillows that members had made.
A complete list of suggested gift items include:
Women – Dresses (simple pullover and open back); button up sweaters; sweat shirts and pants; gowns and open back gowns; knee socks, anklets and footies; cosmetics; nail polish; perfume and cologne; bath powder; inexpensive jewelry; watches (wrist and pendant); jewelry boxes; and purses, change purses and wallets.
Men – Sport shirts; pullover shirts; flannel shirts; button up sweaters; sweat shirts and pants; jeans (size 38 waist and larger); elastic waist slacks; pajamas; socks; t-shirts; briefs and boxer shorts; belts; suspenders; after-shave and pre-shave lotions; and watches.
Ash said the sizes needed for most of the clothing, both men and women, are large, extra large, 2X and 3X.
Miscellaneous gift items – Hats and caps; gloves and mittens; handkerchiefs and bandanas; hand and body lotion; stationery; music boxes; musical toys; puzzle books; handheld games; large print word search books; regular, diet and caffeine free cans of soda; puzzles; calendars; pictures; posters; suncatchers;
Washable dolls; sunglasses; shampoo and conditioner; radios and CD players; all types of music CDs; picture albums; chewing gum; regular and diet soft candy; regular and diet soft cookies; body wash and other personal care items (such as Avon).
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.