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Spending Thanksgiving at a senior living home can still ‘feel like it’s family’
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Al Gurley and wife Joyce McManious hold hands as they wait fof Thanksgiving dinner service Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, at Ashton Senior Living in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

On Thanksgiving Day, Nisha Jackson busted through the dining room doors of Manor Lake Assisted Living & Memory Care and started dancing. 

“When I go in there I like to dance,” Jackson said. “It brightens their day and makes them laugh.”

Jackson and others worked the Thanksgiving holiday at Manor Lake in Gainesville.

“I decided to be here to welcome the families and let them know that they have support from us,” Tempest Ware, the memory care coordinator, said. “I love what I do.”

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Mildred Nicholson, left, and Mazola Kellar eat a Thanksgiving meal together Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, at Manor Lake Assisted Living and Memory Care. - photo by Scott Rogers

It was the first Thanksgiving at Manor Lake, which opened in April. 

Chuck Ulrich, who is one of the assisted living home’s first residents, deemed his first holiday meal there a success. 

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Chuck Ulrich chats at the dinner table Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, during Thanksgiving dinner service at Manor Lake Assisted Living and Memory Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

“It’s fantastic,” he said while taking a bite of dressing. “You feel like it’s family. The people here are right with us and here during the good and bad times.”

Like Manor Lake, many of the staff at Ashton Senior Living in Gainesville said they don’t consider working the holidays a major sacrifice. 

Kandi Chavis, Ashton administrator, said the employees are with the residents more than their own families. Spending the holidays with them comes naturally. 

“This is what we do,” Chavis said. “This is our heart and soul. For me personally, this is my ministry, so these are all my children, and I love them dearly.”

She said Ashton’s employees makes sure to give those who don’t have family visitors extra attention and care. 

Al Gurley and Joyce McManious held hands over the dining room table as they awaited their Thanksgiving meal. 

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Joyce McManious and Al Gurley, married for only a few years, sit down to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, at Ashton Senior Living in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

The two have been married for three years and said they were excited to spend their first holiday at Ashton. 

Gladys Chandler sat alone a couple of tables down from the couple. She has spent every Christmas and Thanksgiving for the past three years at Ashton. 

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Gladys Chandler sits at a dining room table at Ashton Senior living in Gainesville Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. - photo by Scott Rogers

With a soft smile on her face, Chandler said she was looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal.

“For all the holidays they serve us just like we’re kings and queens,” she said. “I feel like I belong to someone. It’s a wonderful feeling to belong. We love each other just like family. When someone new comes in, I tell them, ‘Welcome to the Ashton family.’”

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A Thanksgiving Day turkey sits in the dining room Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, at Manor Lake Assisted Living and Memory Care in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers