Giving tree to help Stillwater Center residents: ‘Christmas is not cancelled’

A nearly two decade tradition, the Stillwater Center gifting tree asks citizens to donate presents to residents of the facility. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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A nearly two decade tradition, the Stillwater Center gifting tree asks citizens to donate presents to residents of the facility. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

For nearly 20 years, the Stillwater Center’s giving trees have brought joy to the residents of the facility who have severe intellectual or physical disabilities.

Holiday plans and activities have been dramatically curtailed by the coronavirus crisis, and the Stillwater Center is no exception.

But officials say the pandemic will not stop this important gift-giving tradition and they will find ways to spread cheer to these community members.

“During this season of COVID, our mantra is that Christmas is not cancelled,” said Dr. Michelle Pierce-Mobley, director of Stillwater Center. “We instead are focusing on the magic of the season, highlighting those things that are positive, good and reinforcing of the goodness in humanity.”

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The Stillwater Center gifting tree has tags with the names of residents of the facility and their gift requests. CONTRIBUTED
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The Stillwater Center gifting tree has tags with the names of residents of the facility and their gift requests. CONTRIBUTED

The Stillwater Center serves residents from ages 3 to 78 who have severe intellectual or physical disabilities that require medical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Pierce-Mobley said. The center provides a safe home environment that is cost-effective for residents and their families, she said.

But because of COVID-19, there were times that visits were suspended.

Gatherings, like parties and special meals on Thanksgiving and other occasions that hosted large groups of residents and their families, were not feasible this year, officials say.

Most residents are unable to wear masks, so staff have to be very careful and vigilant with COVID-19 safety protocols, officials said.

Stillwater is having to skip large-group Christmas activities, but residents likely will have safe holiday activities that include Santa and elves and gift distributions.

The Stillwater Center has gifting trees in the lobby of the Montgomery County administration building at 451 W. Third St. and at the facility itself.

The Christmas trees are decorated with tags instead of ornaments.

Each tag has the first name and the last name initial of one of the 96 residents of the Stillwater Center.

The tags contain a short wish list of gifts residents would like.

The giving tree was started because many residents do not have family or friends who can buy them Christmas presents, Pierce-Mobley said.

Residents of the Stillwater Center use a new walkway to get from the center to Northview School. Before, many of the residents were traveling about 11 miles by bus for services. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
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Residents of the Stillwater Center use a new walkway to get from the center to Northview School. Before, many of the residents were traveling about 11 miles by bus for services. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Some residents make their own requests, but most wish lists are developed by staff who see the residents every day and know them well, she said.

“By donating gifts, we are able to help show that we value and respect them and are happy they are part of our community,” Pierce-Mobley said.

Gift requests typically include clothing, bed linens and toiletries. One resident wants a Dallas Cowboys shirt.

Another wants a model train and cologne.

Wyatt S. would like sweat suits, socks, house shoes and mittens, a hat or scarf.

Citizens can take a tag from the gifting tree in the administration building, purchase one or more of the items and then place them under the tree, said Deb Decker, interim director of communications for Montgomery County.

Gifts should be put in a bag ― no wrapping ― and the tags should be included so Stillwater staff can make sure they get to the right residents, Decker said.

A resident of the Stillwater Center, which serves people with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. CONTRIBUTED
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A resident of the Stillwater Center, which serves people with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. CONTRIBUTED

Gifts can be dropped off at the administration building through Dec. 11, but Stillwater staff also are willing to pick up presents.

People who would like to donate but who cannot visit the administration building to pull a tag can contact Bryan Bailey at BaileyB@mcohio.org.

Gifts can be dropped off directly at Stillwater (8100 N. Main St.), but they should contain the tags and be marked Attn: Bryan Bailey.

Christmas will be a little different this year at the Stillwater Center, but officials say it will still be a special time for all.

“We want to ensure our residents at Stillwater have a great holiday, and a safe one,” said Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge. “They deserve to be cherished every day of the year, including Christmas.”