‘Christmas in April’ for Autumn Care residents

Published 9:56 pm Friday, April 13, 2018

A local nursing home received a generous donation from a group of women that love to serve others.

Les Gemmes Inc. — from French meaning “the jewels” — was established in 1955 by four childhood friends in Norfolk. The organization now has more than a dozen chapters across Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and the District of Columbia.

Chapters perform charitable and civic services for their local communities, including Suffolk, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

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Each chapter has been collecting items for the Autumn Care of Suffolk nursing and rehabilitation center since September. Dozens of members personally delivered their chapter donations to the residents on Thursday during their 24th biennial conclave, with each chapter represented.

“We serve our communities, and we have fun while we serve,” said Les Gemmes Inc. National President Shirline Johnson.

Many requests were fulfilled, gift-wrapped and distributed for approximately 100 residents at the facility. They brought handheld mirrors, socks, wristbands and glasses. They gave coloring books paired with brightly-colored pencils, plus word searches and other activity books.

There were bonnets, lotion, body wash, brushes, toothbrushes and toothpaste and hand sanitizer. Residents even got brand-new earphones with jazz, Motown and spiritual CDs.

“We are more than appreciative of the generosity shown to us by the Les Gemmes,” said Ruth Crawley, vice president of the resident council.

Members of the Suffolk chapter often volunteer at Autumn Care, like Verjena Jones, chair of the chapter’s senior project.

“I’m here twice a week to read and write with them,” Jones said. “We sing and play games. I do anything they need, and when I’m not here, they miss me.”

The ladies enjoyed seeing the residents and their excited faces.

“It’s a real educational experience working with senior citizens,” said Suffolk Chapter President Anita Warren. “They have so much knowledge to give, and it’s interesting having conversations with them.”

Autumn Care Activities Director Tameika Cross had been talking with the Les Gemmes about the project since September, but even she was surprised by their turnout.

“In my 18 years at this facility, I have never seen an outpouring of this magnitude,” Cross said. “They were extremely generous, and everybody is extremely appreciative of what they did.

“It’s like Christmas in April.”