Due to the generosity of three local youth groups, every resident at a Faribault nursing home and assisted living facility will receive a gift this holiday season.

Two Rice County 4-H groups, Willing Wells and Big Woods, and the Faribault Emeralds dance team took resident gift requests from the giving tree at Pleasant Manor, fulfilled those requests and personally delivered the gifts. The Emeralds delivered 32 gifts following a brief performance on Tuesday afternoon before a group of residents in the Pleasant Manor living room.

“I call it the miracle on Brand Avenue,” said Pleasant Manor Community Lifestyle Director Kathy Hunt. “About two weeks ago, Taviah (Johnson) brought an idea to us to help out with the Christmas tree at Pleasant Manor. She heard about it through her 4-H group, which was here last week caroling.”

After Taviah Johnson and her 4-H group, Big Woods, took bulbs off the tree, Johnson saw that many still remained. That gave her an idea.

“I took the idea to my dance team about a week ago and they loved it,” said Johnson. “I was not expecting that. Everyone was in. I hope the new (team members) do it early so they get the joy of doing it more than once.”

The Faribault Emeralds took the remaining 32 bulbs off the tree and went shopping last weekend. Between the Emeralds and Big Woods, they purchased 65 gifts. Willing Wells bought 40 gifts for tenants at Pleasantview (Estates). Thanks to the three groups, all residents will receive a gift.

One by one, the residents’ faces lit up as the girls handed them their gifts.

“Instead of giving gifts to each other, we donated to Toys for Tots and this,” said Emeralds team member Kristin Johnson. “It felt better than giving to our teammates. It made us closer as a team. The juniors talked about donating to multiple nursing homes next year. I hope they think of ways to expand the giving. I like that we decided to do this as a team.”

Team member Samantha Tousignant said she was surprised to see that the gift requests for items such as lotion, socks, jewelry and makeup were so straightforward compared to kids their age.

Hunt said this is the fourth year they’ve erected the giving tree.

“The Emeralds, Willing Wells and Big Woods have already volunteered to do it next year,” Hunt said. “We’re creating a bond and a partnership. It’s very important to have educational and inter-generational activities, not just for the residents but for the students as well. It’s a win-win situation for all involved. The giving tree is an important way to foster community involvement.”

Reach reporter Camey Thibodeau at 333-3128. Follow her on Twitter.com @CameyThibodeau.

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