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Our Neighbor residents get help with holiday decorations
All decorations donated throughout year
Tracy Waggoner and daughter Ali, 12, add Christmas decorations Thursday on the front of Randy’s House. The two joined other volunteers in decorating all the Our Neighbor Inc. homes for Christmas.

They may not have looked like elves, but they had the same Christmas spirit.

Like the pointy eared, tiny elves that have long been linked to the winter holiday, a group of about 15 volunteers Thursday helped decorate four homes of disabled residents in Gainesville.

Our Neighbor, Inc. decorated each of its homes occupied by adults with various disabilities. Each of the houses were dressed with strands of garland and lights. Inside, Christmas trees were decorated with ornaments.

"We're putting up trees, putting up wreaths on the doors and putting up lights," said Mary Margaret Calvert, executive director of Our Neighbor.

All the decorations were donated throughout the year and Calvert said those donations were abundant.

"I had a great response," she said. "I had an abundance of decorations for last year and I've gotten even more this year."

"We have a lot of community support. Anytime I ask for something I get an abundance," Calvert added.

The homes are occupied by adults with disabilities who would otherwise be required to live in a nursing home. A total of 11 male residents live in the four houses.

The organization recently received approval to open a women's home in Gainesville.

Because the residents can't decorate themselves, volunteers took it upon themselves to fill the houses with green and red.

"The guys aren't in a position to do it for themselves and it gets us in the Christmas spirit," Calvert said. "It's a great was to bring our kids and get them involved doing something for others."

One of the houses volunteers decorated was Randy's
House on Prior St. in Gainesville.

It was the first home established by Our Neighbors in 2005 and has housed Randy Owens since that time.

John Shepherd of Gainesville has been a long-time friend of Owens. The two graduated from North Hall High School together, and Thursday, Shepherd came to help his friend get in the holiday spirit.

"It will make him think more of Christmas with all the ornaments and wreaths," Shepherd said.

But Owens doesn't live alone. Nick Caine and Jason Hare also live in the disability-friendly home. Caine has a rare disorder called Costello syndrome, characterized by delayed development and loose folds of skin.

The help was appreciated by Caine, as well as other residents.

"It's really good. I like people helping out because some of us can't really help out," Caine said.

"It's puts us in the Christmas spirit because the Christmas spirit is really a blessing to me," he added.

Bruce Wheeler lives at an Our Neighbor residence on Park Street. He was involved in a serious wreck that left him in a coma for 18 weeks and with brain trauma.

Like Caine and the other residents, Wheeler is ready for the holiday season.

He enjoyed seeing everybody, "Decorating the house, trimming the trees, seeing everybody in a cheerful mood."

And the help didn't go unrecognized.

"Being physically disabled is one thing and being mentally challenged is another thing. These people treat me like a human being. They don't talk slow to me just because I talk slow," Wheeler said.


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