Residents and associates celebrate as they prepare to ship off their Christmas boxes.

When Jala West, social services director at Life Care Center of Collegedale, Tennessee, prepared to send a Christmas care package to her son stationed at a military base in Afghanistan, she had an idea to turn a simple care package into more than just one gift.


“My son left for Afghanistan last July, and the residents have been asking about him,” West said. “I thought, ‘What if we do a group project and get together to involve the residents and get his whole troop gifts for Christmas?’”


The staff and residents joined together and began working hard on the project. Over the next four weeks, they decorated boxes, wrote the troops heart-warming letters and collected items to fill the boxes with all kinds of treats.


“I asked my son to name some items he thought they might want that they don’t usually get,” said West. “They asked for nuts, cereal and wet wipes – they don’t usually get much of those sorts of things.”


The troop with which West’s son is stationed, known as The Shadow Troop, is scheduled to receive the gift boxes just in time for Christmas.


“I am just enamored by the generosity of staff, family members and residents, and the time they took to make the boxes,” said West. “They made individual notes for [the troops] and designed the boxes. We had a whole activity around designing the boxes!”


When asked what they enjoyed most about helping with the project, residents mentioned that it makes them happy to know where the boxes are going.


“When [the troops] open these boxes, they’re going to be even more excited than we are to fill them,” said resident Nina Stephenson. “For us, this is exciting, but for them to see them – can you imagine? This is nothing short of amazing!”


Carrie Hicks, receptionist at Life Care Center of Collegedale, also expressed her excitement for the troops to receive their gifts.


“Those troops are defending our country, and they’re by themselves on Christmas,” said Hicks. “Anything we can do to help them is worth it.”


Due to the project’s success, it may become a new Christmas tradition at the facility. According to West, she is hoping to continue the project next year.


“I love working for a company that is so community-based and cares about its staff, their families and the residents and that incorporates everybody as a community,” said West.

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