Residents of The Gardens at Southern Manor partnered with residents of Southern Manor Retirement Inn to create gift bags for local public servants recently. Benefiting from the public safety "survival kit" project were members of the Statesboro and Brooklet police departments, the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office, Bulloch County Emergency Medical Services, the Bulloch County and Statesboro fire departments and the Georgia State Patrol.
At a time when relationships are tense among some public servants and citizens across the nation, these local residents chose to honor and show appreciation to those in Statesboro and Bulloch County who willingly serve others on a daily basis.
The gratitude was mutual, too, according to Dr. Gale Harrison, resident of The Gardens.
"It was nice to see the real appreciation they had, and we appreciated the opportunity to do it," Harrison said.
The event was special to the former Georgia Southern University professor because she often taught students majoring in criminal justice in her gender studies classes there. And though she didn't personally recognize any of the officers accepting a goodie bag, she said, "Once in a while, I'll see a former student of mine in the Statesboro police force."
The residents came up with the idea and had assistance from the activities directors for the two facilities, Katherine Green and Judith Eastman. Each survival kit had treats and a note of explanation: Smarties - To give you wisdom to make those split decisions; Lifesavers - To remind you of the many times you've been one; PayDay - Because you're not doing it for the money; DumDums - Because you deal with a lot of them; Gum - To help everyone stick together; Tootsie Rolls - To help you roll with the punches; and Goldfish crackers - Because you are o"FISH"ally our heroes.
After working together to stuff the bags on the days leading up to the event, residents sat outside in front of Southern Manor from
9 a.m. until noon last Tuesday, making sure to stay in the shade with water bottles and fans, to greet the public servant officials and hand out the treats. Though the residents attempted to make the bag retrieval convenient enough for officials to drive through the circle and pick them up, most of the officers got out of their vehicles - patrol cars, fire trucks and others - to hug and thank the residents personally.
"It meant so much to them," said Reagan Daly, director of The Gardens at Southern Manor, "to the givers and receivers."
Daly said the service project was one of many efforts to help the residents stay active and involved, both within the facilities and in the community.
"It's a chance for them to give back to the community," she said. "We feel it's important to make sure the residents have a purpose."
Resident Irene Shearer, who moved into The Gardens because her sister, Doris Clemens, was already living there, recalled similar times of giving back before she moved into the facility.
"When I lived in Texas and Arkansas, I volunteered, and we used to do a lot for the police department and for kids in need," she said. "It was a joy to see the kids' faces, and this brought the same joy. And we had fun doing it."