Holiday Bustle at The Blake at Oxford

Sponsored by The Blake at Oxford

by Jenna Mason

In a year when Americans are experiencing social isolation at unprecedented levels, residents at The Blake are staying as busy as ever. An assisted living and memory care facility located in Oxford Commons, The Blake prioritizes not only compassion and care, but also joy. This holiday season, residents are finding that joy in serving others in the Oxford community and across the country.

The Blake has found creative ways to adapt many of the activities normally offered to residents in spite of the challenges social distancing poses. “Lunch Bunch” is one such activity, a favorite of many residents. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, The Blake staff would drive a group out to a local restaurant each week; currently, The Blake orders take out from those same restaurants and hosts “Lunch Bunch To-Go” on site. Movie Night has also changed from an outing to the theater to a socially distanced on-site event, complete with popcorn and snacks. And while much-loved trips to the casinos in Tunica is out of the question for the moment, The Blake still hosts bridge and BINGO games regularly.

Not all activities take place on campus. Staff still take residents out for leisure rides around Oxford, and they’ve been able to continue visiting local farms to see horses and take in the outdoors. Friends and family are also able to visit The Blake, though for now this is by appointment only. The Blake has designated two spaces on campus for visitors, whom they screen before entry and require to wear a mask at all times. The spaces are arranged to make it easy for visitors to maintain a safe distance while spending meaningful time with loved ones. Likewise, residents may leave campus if they choose and must quarantine for fourteen days before resuming normal activities in the community.

The resident community at The Blake is tight-knit and very active. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, staff members and residents worked tirelessly to sew masks for every employee and community member. Using fabric donated by local churches, the group continued to donate nearly one thousand more masks to New York and to a reservation in Arizona. In October, the group designed and sold Breast Cancer Awareness t-shirts, and they partnered with Southern Craft Stove and Tap to host “Pig Out at The Blake.” The proceeds from the shirts and from the presold pork shoulders and to-go plates were donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. For Veteran’s Day, residents wrapped Hershey’s chocolate bars in camouflage, wrote a personal thank you note, and delivered them to the State Veterans Home in Oxford.

The Blake has multiple projects in the works leading up to the holidays. Partnering with Safe and Sound Home Care and Three Rivers Planning and Development District, residents are creating and donating “Shoeboxes for Seniors” that contain warm gloves, hats, socks, scarves, and nonperishable food items. Senior adults in Mississippi are often on a very fixed income, and their tight budget might not allow for such winter necessities. Through December 20, anyone is able to contribute a shoebox or even just bring items and a box to The Blake for residents to assemble, then Three Rivers will deliver the boxes to senior residents in eight Mississippi counties.

The Blake community has also put their own spin on “Adopt-a-Soldier.” When residents learned that one of the nurses has a son deployed overseas, they chose to adopt his whole Army platoon, assembling and shipping a care package to each soldier for the holidays.

Staff members delight to see residents gain such fulfillment from serving others. Later this month, residents will read holiday stories to Oxford’s pre-k children over Zoom. Each participant will choose his or her favorite story to share with a class, making the event even more meaningful for residents. In times of such turmoil such opportunities are a treasure. Orchestrating moments like these is what makes The Blake a true gem in the Oxford community.

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