By GRACE GADDY
PALESTINE — Residents at Cartmell Home for Aged got a special surprise Wednesday when the man from the North Pole paid them a visit.
“God loves you, and so do I,” Santa would say as he'd crouch by bedsides or offer a friendly hug to walkers in the hall.
Cartmell employees said this particular Santa Claus, played by Heart to Heart Hospice Chaplain Kenn Somerville, made a point to visit the residents each Christmas as a personal labor of love.
“He does Santa Claus here every year,” Jan Duhon, clinical liaison for Heart to Heart hospice, said.
She said most of the patients knew him outside of the red suit, since Somerville is a chaplain there at Cartmell.
“Our chaplains have territories... and Kenn's territory is Palestine. He sees all the (nursing home) facilities here in Palestine, in Elkhart, and he goes to each and every one of them every week and visits with the patients and prays with them,” Duhon said.
“Not only does he see our patients, but he has such a godly presence and he's such a godly man. He will stop a stranger on the street and just tell them, 'You look like you need a hug.' And he'll hug them and pray with them — that's just the kind of person that he is.”
Plenty of hugs were given away Wednesday as Somerville made the rounds, this time marking his seventh year.
When asked why he did it, Somerville didn't need time to think.
“Have you seen their faces? That's why,” he said. “It's to give something tangible, for what's here lasts forever... I see their faces and it's worth it every time.”