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INL employees help sponsor Christmas for group home residents

December 21, 2018
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Whitney Noble, Heather Carl and Brenda Monson wrap gifts recently at the Idaho Falls Group Homes. Employees from Idaho National Laboratory have been adopting residents ranging in age from 7-70, who are often without families, from the group homes and providing gifts for the last seven years.

The staff at the Idaho Falls Group Homes are making sure their residents have as merry a Christmas as anyone.

For the past seven years, employees at Idaho National Laboratory have “adopted” the residents, buying them presents. Cheryl Noble, who worked at INL, started the program, said her daughter Whitney Noble, an administrator at Idaho Falls Group Homes. When Cheryl Noble retired five years ago Brenda Monson, an administrative assistant at the lab, picked it up.

“She has been absolutely amazing,” said Whitney Noble.

About 28 to 30 developmentally disabled people live at Idaho Falls Group Homes’ four facilities, ranging from elementary school-aged to their 60s. Many of them don’t have family involved in their lives, and most of their disability checks go to cover basic living expenses, leaving the residents with $30 a month each in extra spending money. Without this program, Noble said, most of them wouldn’t have much of a Christmas to speak of.

“This is the only Christmas they get,” she said.

Monson and INL also help the group homes out in other ways, such as helping them raise money to buy exercise equipment. INL also donates $500 every year, Noble said, which the group homes’ staff uses to buy items such as shower chairs that they might have trouble affording otherwise.

“That’s been very helpful because we’re a nonprofit,” Noble said.

The residents ask for particular gifts, and an INL employee “adopts” them and buys the presents. Monson coordinates this, finding INL employees who are interested and matching them up with group home residents.

The residents ask for all kinds of gifts.

“They ask for a lot of clothes,” Noble said. “Movies are really big.”

The children often ask for things such as boots, snow pants, sleds, coats, tablets and board games.

“Fuzzy blankets are always a big favorite,” said Heather Carl, a quality assurance manager at the group homes.

One that stood out to Carl was a man who was in a wheelchair but loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The family that adopted him bought him Harley shirts, stickers and a “gremlin bell,” a small bell some bikers hang from their motorcycles for good luck.

Usually, Noble said, the children get adopted first, although this year an older man who reminded some people of their own father was “the hot one.” This year it only took three days to match all the residents up with someone.

Some INL employees will adopt two or three group home residents, Monson said. Sometimes, she said, people will get their children involved, bringing them shopping to teach them “the volunteering aspect of it, and the giving aspect of Christmas.”

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