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Easter cheer at Suffolk nursing homes

There were plenty of warm smiles at Autumn Care of Suffolk Friday morning, as the Easter Bunny greeted residents from outside their windows in the cold, windy air.

But the wind chill was actually a blessing in disguise for Suffolk Sheriff’s Deputy Wade Thomas. Deputy Thomas wore the Easter Bunny costume on Friday morning, while others with the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office followed along to greet the residents at the windows.

“It’s actually quite nice,” Thomas said while inside the Easter Bunny suit. “The wind blowing really helps out with the temperature. This (suit) holds in a whole lot of heat.”

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office was at Autumn Care on Friday morning as part of its Bunny Trail visits to Suffolk nursing homes this week. They went to Lake Prince Woods Retirement Community and Bon Secours Maryview Nursing Care Center on Wednesday, and then Concordia Assisted Living Nansemond Commons on Thursday.

Each day, a member of the Sheriff’s Office wore the Easter Bunny outfit to bring smiles to the residents’ faces, to go with the stuffed Easter Bunnies the Sheriff’s Office brought for each resident, although some of the nursing homes were not able to accept them due to coronavirus concerns.

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office has been participating in these annual visits for about five years, and both the bunny costume and stuffed bunnies are supplied by the Easter Bunny Foundation, according to an email from Katie Jones, community outreach coordinator for the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office.

In previous years, the Sheriff’s Office would go inside the nursing home to greet residents, but that changed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. To keep everyone safe, the stuffed bunnies were instead given to nursing staff to hand out at a later date, and the Easter Bunny himself said hello to the residents at their windows.

It was Deputy Thomas’s job to cheer up the Autumn Care residents on Friday, and he did so with gusto — prancing and waving and blowing kisses to their delight. He said it felt “incredible” to brighten up their day, and that the joy the Sheriff’s Office gave to them was paid back in kind.

“It just lights up your day,” he said.

Activities Director Tameika Cross was grateful for another Easter visit from the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office comes by for holidays throughout the year to bring some cheer to the residents at Autumn Care, and in spite of the pandemic, they stuck to tradition.

“You never miss a holiday — even through this pandemic that we have going on,” Cross told the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office on Friday. “You put smiles on our residents’ faces. A lot of them haven’t had the opportunity to see family and friends and things like that, so it’s good for them to know that they have someone who still cares, and who’s still thinking about them.”

Suffolk Sheriff E.C. Harris expressed hope that as a community they will overcome COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He said that just as the meaning of Easter is Jesus’ victory over death, “we’re going to have victory over this.”

“The appreciation and outpouring (have) been great,” Harris said. “Not just for the residents and staff, but it’s been great for us being able to do it. We want to do so much to help, (but) you’re limited as to how much you can do, so it’s been a good thing for us this week.”

The festivities will continue on Sunday afternoon with the Easter Egg Parade led by Suffolk Sheriff’s Deputy Veronica Woodson. Deputy Woodson and members of her family will ride through different Suffolk neighborhoods, with Woodson leading in her Suffolk Sheriff’s Office vehicle, to hand out more than 1,500 plastic eggs filled with candy, plus a few fun surprises.

Visit facebook.com/SuffolkVASheriff for more information on the Easter Egg Parade route and times.