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Bringing tidings of joy

POSTED: December 23, 2013 6:54 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

The children emphatically sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

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They are eager for Santa’s arrival, but a group of young children were the ones giving the gifts Thursday.

Kindergarteners from the Habersham School in Rincon brought Christmas presents and hand-made cards to the senior citizens at Effingham Care Center. The children also sang Christmas songs and performed a play of the story of Christ’s birth.

“They did an excellent job. I could not have asked for anything better,” said their teacher, Gail Browning.

The children’s visit is becoming a holiday tradition for a local nursing home ministry led by Karima Burdette. This was the second straight year Browning’s kindergarten class visited Effingham Care Center at Christmas time.

Though the 18 kindergarteners made the gift delivery and gave the performance, all of Habersham’s elementary-grade students were involved. Students in grades first-fifth made 200 Christmas cards to give to the nursing home residents, Burdette said.

After they sang, the young children walked around the commons area and handed the senior citizens gift bags containing blankets, word-puzzle books and the hand-made cards. Each child said, “Merry Christmas” — some boisterously, some a bit sheepishly — as they extended a small hand with a present.

“It’s a great ministry for the kids,” Burdette said. “It’s a blessing to them to see to love others — no matter where they’re at, no matter if they’re sick, it doesn’t matter. We have to love one another just like God wants us to love one another, and we have to serve our community.”

The nursing home ministry was founded under the GLOW (God Loves Orphans and Widows) Ministry of Burdette’s church, Grace Community Church in Rincon. Burdette and other volunteers visit nursing homes as often as they can throughout the year, especially for occasions such as Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Grandparents Day and Valentine’s Day.

The ministry is supported by contributions from her church, local businesses and individual donors, Burdette said. Also, the number of volunteers helping has grown considerably in her six years leading the ministry.

“It’s great because I bring different groups at different times, so it blesses different people at different times,” Burdette said. “God works through me every year, and He brings me the right people and the right volunteers every year.”

Burdette shared a story from a visit she and others, including the children’s choir from Grace Community Church, made the previous week to Westview Nursing Center in Port Wentworth. As they sang Christmas carols in the hallway, some of the residents emerged from their rooms with smiles on their faces — including a pleasantly surprising one.

“One of the ladies who works there said, ‘This lady has not smiled in so long,’ and she comes out of her room just smiling big,” Burdette said. “I can’t explain the joy I get from doing this.”

Sometimes, though, the nursing home residents aren’t able to give any feedback. Those who have the most difficulty communicating are unable to speak, much less manage a smile.

Even so, Burdette feels certain that all the seniors are touched by the nursing home visits.

“You can see it in their eyes. They smile with their eyes,” she said. “Even if they can’t speak to me, they can hear me, and as long as we share Jesus with them and we bring some love their way, that’s all that matters.”


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