COLUMBIA CITY — The holidays can be a lonely time of year for folks in senior living facilities who aren’t able to spend the season with their loved ones at home. Thankfully, the staff at Miller’s Merry Manor in Columbia City knows how to make the season merry and bring a little joy to its residents.

Making Miller’s a home away from home is a year-round priority for Audree Ousley, Miller’s admissions director, and the rest of the staff, even for residents staying for a short period of time. The holidays are an especially busy time for them.

“We as employees are trained to understand they are not in our workplace, we are in their home,” Ousley said. “We try to familiarize (the holidays) as much as possible by making our environment comfortable and homelike for family and visitors to come in and we try to embrace each resident’s holiday traditions.”

Some traditions that Miller’s brings around every year include customary Thanksgiving and holiday meals with all the fixings, as well as chances for the residents to catch a ride into town to go Christmas shopping and see the neighborhoods covered with lights and decorations. Santa Claus also takes a few minutes out of his hectic schedule from time to time to drop in on some old friends.

In anticipation of Christmas, a present drive is also organized to ensure that everyone in the building wakes up on Christmas Day with a present waiting for them. On Christmas morning, the staff and residents gather together to exchange presents and enjoy each other’s company.

The majority of Miller’s residents in Columbia City have family and friends nearby, Ousley mentioned, and it is not uncommon for relatives to join in the holiday meals or put their own homey holiday touches in the living quarters. Others get the opportunity to bring their loved ones home for a day or two to celebrate.

“I would say 90 percent or more of our patients’ family members are actively involved,” Ousley said. “We have a lot of families that bring a little tree or window clings and other little decorations and Christmas candy for the room.”

Being located in such a close-knit community like Columbia City, Miller’s residents and staff also enjoy a great deal of visitors bringing in their own fun activities and an abundance of holiday spirit. Area churches come in to visit with residents and there’s always a group or two of schoolchildren ready and excited to lead everyone in some Christmas carols.

Ousley noted that there is always room for more visitors and encourages any individual or group who has some free time during the holiday rush to contact them and find a way to fill Miller’s with as much love and joy as the walls can possibly hold.

“Some bring gifts, but the gift of time is the biggest, or most appreciated, one of all,” Ousley said.