For more information on the GLOW nursing home ministry, call 596-6075 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Seated in a chair at Effingham Care Center, Betty Brinson looked up at Gail Browning and expressed her heartfelt gratitude.
"Thank you for the Christmas gift," she said.
However, the gift wasn’t anything that had been under a Christmas tree. It wasn’t wrapped in shiny paper or adorned with a pretty bow.
Rather, it was Browning’s kindergarten class from Effingham Christian School treating the nursing home residents to a Christmas show. The children presented the story of Jesus’ birth as told in the Gospel of Luke, then heartily belted out five Christmas songs.
"The children just love people indiscriminately," Browning said, "so they bring that to anybody here at the nursing home."
The ECS kindergarteners’ visit to Effingham Care Center was one of the outreach projects of an all-volunteer nursing home ministry led by Karima Burdette of Guyton. Burdette’s son Zecharia is inBrowning’s class.
Burdette initially asked Browning if her class would make Christmas cards to give to nursing home residents, and the children did that and much more. They had learned a few Christmas songs to perform at the school’s Grandparents Day program, which their teacher thought would be perfect to share — along with the Christmas story — at the nursing home.
"We’re teaching the children to give and to minister to other people and not to think about Christmas as just getting things at Christmas time," Browning said.
"I think it’s a blessing to the residents," Burdette said, "but it’s also such a blessing to us. I just can’t explain the satisfaction I get from doing it."
Along with their homemade cards, the ECS students gave gifts provided by Burdette’s ministry. Through monetary donations from the community, each resident received a cozy blanket — which the young children delivered door-to-door down each hallway.
"Some of them were a little hesitant at first because I don’t think they had ever been into a nursing home," Browning said. "But once they got started, I think they really started enjoying it."
The nursing home ministry was founded under the GLOW (God Loves Orphans and Widows) Ministry of Grace Community Church in Rincon. Burdette was already an active member of the church when GLOW director Wendy Turner mentioned the ministry had no one to make nursing home visits, so Burdette decided to lead it.
"Since I was a little girl, I have had a love for serving people," Burdette said, "and the elderly are even more precious to me than babies. I just love taking care of them."
The GLOW nursing home ministry has grown steadily in the five years since. Burdette now has a base of about 20 volunteers who help her visit nursing home residents and put together gift bags for them.
The ministry also receives a great deal of support from the church and the community, Burdette said. Several youngsters from the Grace Community Church children’s choir joined her recently to sing and give presents at Westview Nursing Center in Port Wentworth. Also, the approximately 200 Christmas gifts the ministry gave this month at Westview and Effingham Care Center were bought with community donations, many of which resulted from the Effingham YMCA’s "angel tree."
Burdette said gift bags are delivered to the two nursing homes for Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Grandparents Day and Valentine’s Day, and ministry volunteers visit as often as they can throughout the year. The personal interaction is what matters most to the residents, she said, especially those who rarely or never receive visits from family.
"The gift bag is great, but what they want is just someone to give them a hug and just love on them," Burdette said. "One of the ladies — she’s really, really sweet — she always takes my hand and puts it right on her heart when she’s talking to me. It just breaks me apart when she does that."
While Burdette loves seeing the joy the ministry brings to Effingham Care Center and Westview Nursing Center, she wants to expand it well beyond two nursing homes. She dreams of serving every nursing home in Effingham and Chatham counties.
"I want to do more than this," she said. "This is not enough."
For more information on the GLOW nursing home ministry: