St. Mary’s Own Elf

(bottom photo by Weyo)

The hall outside the Occupational Therapy Support Services Department at St. Mary’s Home is decorated like Santa’s Workshop. Inside the department, technician Mamie McCloud is busy as one of Santa’s elves, especially at this time of year. She adapts toys so children with severe disabilities can use them. With an array of tools, she deftly replaces small switches with large buttons that are easier for the children to push to make toys dance or play music.

Mamie is profiled today in a nice feature in The Virginian-Pilot newspaper of Norfolk; you can read the story here.

Be sure to check out the accompanying video, which features Mamie and Suzanne Eason, who supervises OT support services, as well as Ashley and Carrington, two of the children of St. Mary’s Home:

Someday at Christmas …

There are many longstanding holiday traditions at St. Mary’s Home, and one of the favorites has come to be the annual visit by the singing group of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District.

District employees donated gifts to the nearly 90 children and young adults of the Home through the district’s Angel Tree event. The district’s singing group then delivered the gifts to the Home on Thursday, Dec. 17, and also sang holiday songs to the children and staff.

“Christmas isn’t Christmas until they come here,” Shirley Parham, a member of St. Mary’s activities staff, said as she introduced the singers.

District commander Col. Andrew Backus with Shirley Parham of St. Mary’s activities staff and Aly.
The performance delighted and touched both the children and staff of the Home.

Everyone gathered eagerly anticipated what staff here refer to as the “special Christmas song” the group performs every year: Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas.” A sample of the lyrics:
Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears

One shinning moment my heart ran away
From our world today.

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime.

Santa Visits St. Mary’s Home

Santa and Laquesha.

The sound of bells jingling as he walked down the halls gave him away.

The children of St. Mary’s Home knew there was a very important person in the building. Santa visited several classrooms to chat with the children and spread some holiday cheer.

Santa is Ross Wilkins, a database programmer for technology and defense contractor SAIC. Wilkins and several colleagues, including St. Mary’s Trustee Carl M. Albero, dropped off presents for the children and a gift package for the staff.

This was Wilkins’ second December in a row touring St. Mary’s while dressed up as Santa. And yes, the beard is real.

NATO Officers Donate to St. Mary’s Home

Allied Command Chief of Staff Royal Navy Vice Adm. Robert Cooling, Wayne Buck and Dan Berry present a donation check to William C. Giermak and Mary Helen Hilton from St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. (From left – Buck, Giermak, Hilton, Cooling, Berry). Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Chris Steffen.

CEO William C. Giermak and Director of Annual Giving Mary Helen Hilton recently attended the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation’s officers’ staff mess on Norfolk Naval Base. Chief of Staff Royal Navy Vice Adm. Robert Cooling presented St. Mary’s Home with $1,000 on behalf of officers from NATO.

You can read more about this generous contribution, as well as donations the officers made to other charities, here.

65 Years of Comfort & Caring

Sisters of the Daughters of Wisdom feed children during an evening meal. (1946 file photo)

The world was at war when a downtown Norfolk building that already had served children for more than a century as a school for girls was re-dedicated on Dec. 8, 1944, for a new purpose. “St. Mary’s Infant Home will provide shelter for the little boys and girls who cannot find it elsewhere,” Bishop Peter I. Ireton, co-adjutor bishop of Richmond, said during the ceremony, according to news accounts.

At first, St. Mary’s was a home for young children with no homes of their own or who needed a temporary place to stay while their mothers worked in war plants. The Daughters of Wisdom arrived at the Home to begin taking care of the children in 1946.

Over the years, the Home evolved into a home for children and young adults with severe disabilities, changing its name and moving into a new facility in the 1960s and then into its current, state-of-the-art building in 2005. Starting in December 2009 and continuing throughout 2010, St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children will be celebrating its 65th anniversary in a number of ways, including vintage-themed holiday decorations, displays of historical items, billboard advertisements in the Norfolk area and an anniversary dinner on March 24, 2010. Be sure to keep checking our website and our newsletter, Guardian, for details – and thank you for supporting the children and young adults who call St. Mary’s “home.”