MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — While many elderly are by themselves this Christmas due to COVID-19, one group is sending a message letting them know they aren't alone.
A Muskegon man organized a group of people to drive to five nursing facilities Christmas morning.
The organizer, Jack Mulder, packed up around 300 gift bags for residents and staff in the nursing facilities in Muskegon County.
"Because of the COVID and no visitation rules, I felt bad about all of the nursing home people and the staff that had to work, said the organizer Jack Mulder.
Mulder is also organizer of a group called "Cruise Angels" and said those nursing facilities have been on his mind.
After organizing a classic car cruise in the summer for the residents of the facilities, he decided he'd change things up for Christmas morning.
"The smiles, the faces, the warm response I got since I started doing this in summertime, it’s just heartwarming. I see the residents. They are so happy that someone got out and paid attention to them. Then of course, Christmas morning it is just the timing thing. If you’re going to play Santa Claus, you’ve got to do it on Christmas morning," said Mulder.
Two other families also participated with one even decorating their vehicle to brighten spirits while they honked, waved and wished residents a 'Merry Christmas'.
Nursing staff at the facilities said it means everything to the residents.
"I definitely notice a change in their behavior, but we try our best to be their family and be there for them. We know right now it is kind of hard for them. It is hard for everybody. We are doing our best to make them feel at home," said a Direct Care Aid at Hallstrom Castle Assisted Living Aleigha Ciezak.
"It’s all they got. They’ve gotten a lot of presents delivered from their families, but they’re not here to open them with them so we all have to be there individually for that," said the Activities Director at Robbinswood Northcrest Assisted Living Joan Bellanger.
Mulder also delivered little gift bags to both residents and staff, spending around $600 of his own money. so each person had something to open.
He even created a gift bag for a 'Scrooge' at each facility.
"I didn’t fundraise or anything. I didn’t ask for sponsors, I didn’t get gift cards or anything like that. I just really tried to keep in mind what they would enjoy and what they might be able to have," said Mulder.
Mulder said although this was the first year, he had so much fun that he's hoping to make it an annual event.