Northwest NEWS

December 11, 2000

Features

Friends, fun and a tiny town create a very merry Christmas

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   Some are stroke patients, others are on oxygen. Many had spouses who have since passed away. For seniors who are unable to care for themselves, the Christmas season can be lonely. Even depressing.
   But not if Priscilla Kenney has anything to say about it.
   Kenney is owner of the Golden Hearth Adult Family Home in Woodinville and the Christmas prescription for her seniors is fun, friendship and a lighted town atop a kitchen counter.
   "No one gets depressed over the holidays because it's very festive," Kenney said. "I decorate for all holidays except Thanksgiving."
   And this the key to Kenney's care of her residents. She not only cares for their medical needs but also for their mental and emotional needs.
   To do this, Kenney creates a happy atmosphere and schedules creative activities. She begins by brightening the Golden Hearth residence with dark red poinsettias inside and out. In the living room, a tall Christmas tree sparkles in white lights, looking majestic in white crystals and green bows. In the family room, a tree displays hundreds of Garfield ornaments with the likeness of the famous orange cat.
   In the kitchen-eating area, a captivating display of a miniature wintry wonderland covers an entire counter from one end of the room to the other. The mini-metropolis is made up of a thousand ceramic or porcelain pieces. With the exception of the foot-tall replica of New York's Times Tower, the buildings are no taller than a cracker box.
   The town bustles with animated activity. Pocket-sized people ice skate on an icy pond and ski down a snowy slope. A tiny Santa with his tiny reindeer fly overhead while busy elves operate a handcar along a train track.
   It took Kenney two weeks to set up the Christmas village along with the help of her four grown kids.
   But to her, the effort is worth every minute. "The women sit and watch. They love the commotion of just putting it up," she said of her residents and their enjoyment of the village.
   As an RN, Kenney was a visiting nurse for nine years before opening Golden Hearth. It was during this time that she realized that some elderly residents were receiving poor care in nursing care facilities. "I felt I can do better than that," she said.
   She was afforded the opportunity when she purchased a Woodinville home owned by a woman she was assigned to care for. A contract was negotiated which allowed the woman to remain in Kenney's care and to keep her dogs. Kenney also purchased the woman"s Christmas Snow Village collection.
   "I bought all the Christmas decorations," Kenney added.
   Afterward, she sent out flyers and brochures to doctors and transitional care units and retirement centers announcing the opening of Golden Hearth. By the time she held her open house, all six openings were filled.
   But for Priscilla Kenney, compassion goes beyond medical care. She also cares for the well-being and state of mind of her patients. As an example, she takes her residents on annual cruises to Caribbean Island destinations, though it is not an easy task for her and her staff. However, Kenney knows that when her elderly residents feel the warmth of the sun on a tropical beach or the ocean breezes on the deck of a cruise ship, they are happy and that their quality of life is enhanced.
   When not traveling to faraway places, Kenney takes her residents to destinations closer to home.
   Last Christmas, she said, the residents had a ball visiting Santa at Bellevue Square. They also had fun making holiday gift packs for their own families and having their pictures taken after having make-overs.
   With body glitter and feathers, the make-overs were a big hit with the residents, Kenney said.
   However, there's something else that could add to the residents' pleasure even more. The residents, Kenney mentioned, would love to have local children visit them this Christmas season to see their Snow Village and to enjoy it with them.
   If interested in visiting or for more information contact Priscilla Kenney at (425) 483-CARE or e-mail: ghrrn@mindspring.com.