By Frank Lewis
Twenty-six years ago, Jim Saddler was visiting his mother in a nursing home, when he began to wheel other residents into the room. That humble beginning by Saddler, Jim Bailey and Morris Liddle, was the foundation for what is now the event called the Nursing Home Veterans Christmas Party to be held Dec. 14 at James Dickey Post 23 of the American Legion, 705 Court St. in Portsmouth.
“About the second or third year it was really dad’s motivation that really kicked it into gear and then got it up to what it is today,” Saddler’s son, Rich Saddler said. “Basically it was dad’s baby and Jim and Morris helped out.”
Jim Saddler passed away July 31, 2015, but his family and friends have kept the event alive.
“All the local area nursing homes will bring their veterans down to the American Legion post,” Rich Saddler said. “Santa will show up and we’ll have the opening ceremony and just kind of welcome everybody, and then everybody will get a good home-cooked meal and just enjoy the afternoon with some good camaraderie. We’ll have a deejay in case anyone wants to get up and kind of dance around. Some of them do.”
He said gifts will be presented to all the nursing home veterans.
“There will be upwards of 900 gifts,” Rich Saddler said. “Whatever the individual requests, they get it. Whether it’s a fishing pole, a bag of peanuts, or clothing; whatever they desire. That’s what they get.”
Saddler said Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) employees and local quilting clubs make quilts and those are given away at the event. Saddler comes about his involvement naturally.
“It’s something I’ve been exposed to, personally, for the last 26 years,” Rich Saddler said. “It’s just something that my family has just always wanted to do, just step up and help people.”
Jane Saddler, Jim Saddler’s wife and Rich Saddler’s mother, said festive music will be provided by D.J.”Doc” Ware. She said last year they were able to provide over 1,200 gifts for the veterans that reside in the area nursing and foster homes.
“It was a dream of Jim’s, and his children, and I along with many friends and extended family hopefully can continue with his wishes,” Jane Saddler said. “It has been part of our family’s Christmas for all these many years. To me it is very heartwarming to be able to bring some smiles to the faces of the ones who have sacrificed their lives for me.”
Jane Saddler said doors will open at 11 a.m. and lunch will be served at noon. The menu will include baked steak, mashed potatoes, ham, green beans, slaw, dessert, navy beans and cornbread and other refreshments. She said the food was prepared by members of the American Legion family, Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, El Hasa Shriners, and Raven Rock Hillbillies Clan number 1, and Outhouse number 3.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.