Home makes Christmas fun

Ron Bledsoe gets help unwrapping one of his presents from Rose Roberts on Christmas morning at the Madrona House in Hermiston.<BR><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Veronica Porter spent Christmas away from her family, but she enjoyed the holiday with residents from Horizon Project's group homes for adults with developmental disabilities.

Porter, who works a 56-hour shift each week at one of the Madrona homes, said although she's used to spending the holidays with her kids and husband - it seemed natural to spend it with the group home residents.

"I call them roommates because I live her for two and a half days. They're my homies," she said with a laugh.

Porter was a shopping fool - taking Lisa Gentry, Robin Serdy, Nancy Conquest, Leroy Stifel and Donna Cutsforth to find the perfect gifts.

"She'd come back totally exhausted," said co-worker Katie Crim.

Being scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Christmas Day was initially difficult for Crim - whose 2-year-old daughter was spending the day with her grandparents.

"It was hard, but I decided to make the best of it," Crim said.

They celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve.

"She had just as much fun," Crim said.

Porter's counterpart in the other Madrona home is Rose Roberts.

On Christmas Day, Roberts was like a jolly elf as she handed out presents to Sheila Zick, Jolynn Smutz, Joe Robinson, Guy White and Ron Bledsoe.

Bledsoe's eyes lit up as a whinnying Fur Real Smores Pony sidled up to him.

"He loves horses," said Dawn Viesca, another group home worker.

Although Bledsoe is non-verbal, his body language expressed his appreciation and love of the giant stuffed animal. He gave it a big hug.

After opening another present, Bledsoe got up from his chair, holding out both hands in pursuit of another gift.

Roberts handed a gift to Zick and Smutz as Bledsoe's eyes darted back and forth from the pile of presents and Roberts. His mouth broke out into a big smile as he opened another package to reveal another stuffed horse.

Meanwhile, the Fur Real Pony swishes its tail, turned his head and let out another whinny.

Bledsoe turned to look at it - reaching out his hand to pet it.

Meanwhile, Robinson held a toy phone, saying, "Hello, hello."

Smutz was thrilled to find page after page of photo collages of her brother's family from Baltimore - included her new niece, Elizabeth.

"That's far, far away - but I have pictures," Smutz said as she glanced through the pages - oblivious to the brightly covered packages that were piling up next to her.

However, out of the corner of her eye, Smutz suddenly saw the cache of candy Zick had unwrapped.

Within a few moments, Smutz's attention turned back to her packages.

"Cool," she said as she shook a box. "It's a puzzle."

Zick said she was set for the day with several movies, some candy and a soft, red microfleece blanket.

"I got new pants," Gentry said as she gathered her gifts and headed for her bedroom.

After busily hanging her new clothes, which she identified by color and type, Gentry settled back in a chair in the living room with a magazine.

The residents of the Madrona homes kicked back in the late morning - enjoying their gifts and the aroma of Christmas dinner as it wafted from the kitchen.

"I enjoy seeing them happy," Viesca said about her clients.

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