KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As long-term care facilities wait for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Knoxville community showed their support through surprise gifts Tuesday.

Morning Pointe of Knoxville residents were the first to receive 28 inch-tall “balloon buddies” from Above the Rest Balloons.

It was through a donation program called ‘Adopt-a-Grandparent’.

Kari Christopher, Life Enrichment Director for the facility, said Above the Rest Balloons staff reached out last week about starting the program and on Tuesday they were able to receive enough donations to give all 52 residents a balloon buddy.

Christopher couldn’t be more grateful for the outpouring support of her residents.

“During the pandemic, there’s a lot of adjusting that we’re all having to do, and it takes a toll on everyone. Every gesture lifts us up,” Christopher said.

According to the Above the Rest staff, they wanted to create the program because they know assisted living residents have been isolated from society since the pandemic started.

Joan Bachman, a resident of Morning Pointe for two years, said she knows the feeling.

“The days do get a little lonely being in isolation. Really does. Gets a little lonely. So it’s always nice to have something show up in your room unexpected,” Bachman said.

Bachman said she receives weekly visits from her daughter and family.

They’ll give her treats and goodies while they talk through the windows.

There’s plenty aspects of “normalcy” she misses still.

“Going to a restaurant, going to my daughter’s house for dinner. That would be, going back to church. I haven’t been back to church. I go to church on the TV. It’s not the same. And it would be wonderful just to get out and get some nice air,” Bachman said.

However, with her balloon buddy, she will have a smiling face inside her room reminding her she’s not alone and others care.

“Very kind. Very nice to know people care. It really is. We have some long days, so he’ll be good company. Thank you,” Bachman said about her balloon buddy, which she named ‘Jolly.’

Christopher said receiving these kinds of gifts during the pandemic are a morale booster for both residents and staff.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep morale up and keep residents active and engaged. So, that’s part of it. But I think the other part of it is just to have our community reaching out and supporting us,” Christopher said.

Morning Pointe residents are scheduled to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month.

You can adopt a grandparent, too

In the meantime, Above the Rest Balloons is still looking for more people in the community to sponsor and adopt a grandparent, so they can deliver balloon buddies to all long-term care facilities in Knoxville.

You can adopt a grandparent by visiting this page.

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