ST. PETERSBURG – The holiday season might be winding down, but people are still talking about random acts of kindness that were bestowed upon them by a community saint. In the days leading up to Christmas, Valerie Dorn Roberts took to the streets and the nursing homes to give a little back to the community she holds so dear.
Recently voted in as residential commissioner of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, Roberts wanted to come up with a way to show residents who live in the Melrose area along Ninth Street South, where she grew up as a child and also lived for 10 years as an adult, how much she cares.
“I’ve been enjoying every moment of it,” said Roberts who humbly accepted praise for her endeavors. For three days before the Christmas holiday, Roberts and a group of volunteers embarked upon the simple journey of finding people in need of a smile.
They stopped off at three nursing homes, Golfview Healthcare Center across from the main library, being one to remember.
“We had a stimulating time,” said Roberts who having worked in the nursing field and in nursing homes in the past is familiar with the needs of those who reside there. “There is always someone who’s feeling lonely, the need to smile, the need to feel better or hear a happy thought.”
The joyous bunch of volunteers served eggnog, chicken salad and an array of other delectable goodies while quizzing residents on Christmas trivia and playing games.
Gifts of scarves, socks and caps were handed out, as well as, earrings for the ladies and neckties for the men. Among the gifts were assorted Christmas ornaments that were also a big hit with nursing home residents.
“Most of them did not have families,” said Roberts who enjoyed listening to the residents talk about where they were from and tidbits about their lives. She will always remember how everyone was talking amongst themselves about their memories of the past, some of them even leading the group in holiday songs. “When we left, we had [put] smiles on their faces.”
Although the picking of the nursing homes were random, and Roberts knew some families beforehand that she wanted to help, she also enlisted her daughter in finding area families that may be in need.
Using gift cards, items she received as gifts for herself, a little of her own money along with small donations from associates and friends, Roberts was able to give away bikes, toys, games and books to a few children in need. There were also baby dolls for the girls and cars for the little boys in the mix of gifts she handed out.
“I had lots of fun,” she said.
Roberts and her friendly entourage of elves also randomly stopped people on the street handing out warm clothing accessories, bottled water and sodas.
For the homeless in her own neighborhood, Roberts teamed up with a neighbor and gave out bread. She also brought bread, rice and some vegetables to families in need in and around the complex where she lives herself.
Roberts tries to give back when she can. Last time she reached out to help the community she fed the homeless at a fibromyalgia support group event. Even though she wishes she could give back more to local residents in need, she struggles with the disease herself and has learned to take each day one step at a time.
“I’m traveling by faith and God’s will, so that’s what gets me through, keeps me strong,” she said. And rest assured, Roberts will continue on her mission to keep giving back as long as she can.
To reach Holly Kestenis, email firstname.lastname@example.org