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Fairhaven resident paints hay bales to bring holiday cheer to isolated individuals in Sykesville community

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way people are able to celebrate holidays and other events with friends, families, and loved ones. Residents of the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville were forced to adjust to an isolated lifestyle, and the holidays are no exception.

Outside of the main community center at Fairhaven sit two hay bales painted to resemble Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and his female counterpart, Clarice. “We Miss You” is written on the concrete in chalk with two hearts drawn on either side of the message in front of the hay bales.

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Judy Rhoades, a Fairhaven resident, is the face behind the bale designs and wanted them placed in front of the windows of residents who were isolated to bring them joy during the holiday season.

“It always feels good to be able to do something,” Rhoades said. “I was doing something that a lot of people here couldn’t have done because you had to get down on your hands and knees and you had to get used paint, wire and fabric, all kinds of things.

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“It’s a good feeling when you can use your abilities to do something nice for people.”

Judy Rhoades, a resident at Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville, painted hay bales to bring joy to isolated residents during the holiday season.
Judy Rhoades, a resident at Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville, painted hay bales to bring joy to isolated residents during the holiday season. (Courtesy photo)

Constructing the reindeer ears and bows took quite a while, Rhoades said. She spent two hours outside in the cold with another resident making the antlers to put on the Rudolph bale. The Rudolph bale boasts a bright, red styrofoam ball for a nose and Clarice’s pink and white polka-dotted bow was made from a plastic tablecloth.

The bales have faces painted on them to resemble the reindeer characters, and Rhoades painted eye lashes on Clarice’s bale for a feminine touch.

“The people who live here and drive by and the people who work here and drive by are really enjoying them,” Rhoades said. “We have had comments from the people in the nursing and assisted living homes saying they’re enjoying them, too.

“That’s your pat on the back.”

Fairhaven staff members Larry Hart and Michelle Jenkins delivered stockings filled with fruit, trail mix, word find books, small bottles of wine, and other goodies to residents. The facility provided gingerbread house kits for people to decorate and hosted an ugly sweater contest as well.

Fairhaven staff members Larry Hart and Michelle Jenkins deliver stockings to residents at the retirement facility.
Fairhaven staff members Larry Hart and Michelle Jenkins deliver stockings to residents at the retirement facility. (Courtesy photo)

“Down near the fitness center, you could sign up to get your name on the wall with an empty sleigh and get presents for your sleigh by doing different intellectual or social activities,” Rhoades said. “They’ve been doing a lot of activities where we don’t have to be together, but they’re oriented toward the holidays.”

Christmas will look slightly different for Rhoades this year. Her daughter, Melissa, recently bought a home in Baltimore and Rhoades said she will most likely enjoy a socially-distanced Christmas with Melissa around the fire pit at her new house, weather permitting.

Fairhaven provides lunch for its residents on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Rhoades said. The residents are allowed to sit together, with a maximum of four people per table and sit a specific distance apart.

“It’s nice because at least you’re with other people,” Rhoades said. “The people that are in that nursing home and assisted living, they’ve been there since spring for crying out loud. Hopefully soon, we’ll all get vaccinated and be able to get together.”

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