Rooftop Christmas tree brightens holiday for residents of Hadley at Elaine Care rehab center
Michael Bokis, manager of Hadley Home Depot, waves from the roof of his store across the fence to the window of Alta and Bill Sibley, residents of Hadley at Elaine Care center.
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Alta Sibley (R) points out her window with her daughter Daphne Kaminedes (L) at Hadley at Elaine Care center Wednesday night as staff from the Hadley Home Depot turned on christmas lights they had set up on the roof which are visible to Elaine residents. Daphne called the store and asked if they could hang some lights for Elaine residents to see. Purchase photo reprints »
Cornell Gravely (L) and Deb Sotirion (R) of Hadley Home Depot illuminate a Merry Christmas sign across the fence to the window of Alta and Bill Sibley, residents of Hadley at Elaine Care center. Home Depot manager Michael Bokis and his staff constructed a christmas light display when Alta's daughter Daphne Kamenides called the store and asked if they could hang some lights for Elaine residents to see. Purchase photo reprints »
HADLEY — When Daphne Kamenides of Granby wanted to get her elderly parents a Christmas gift, she went to the Home Depot. She was looking not for a product but for an act of kindness.
Store manager Michael Bokis responded by putting a Christmas tree on top of the roof, a few hundred feet from Kamenides’ parents’ window at the Hadley at Elaine Care and Rehabilitation Center, the elder care facility next door. Last Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Kamenides was sitting with her parents in their small room there, looking at Christmas cards, when she asked them to look out the window. They were surprised to see the tree become aglow with lights.
“It’s wonderful, because all we ever looked at was bare wall,” said her mother, Alta Sibley.
The Christmas tree, with flickering lights and two glowing wreaths beneath it, drew oohs and aahs from the residents and caregivers at Hadley at Elaine. The surprise was the work of one devoted daughter and one caring store manager.
“It’s so nice to give,” Kamenides said. “You don’t need money. You just need a heart.”
The idea came to her one day recently when she was sitting with her parents, Alta and Bill Sibley, who are 91 and 92, in their room. She looked out the window and saw the back of the Home Depot building, and thought it would be nice if her parents could look out on something festive instead of a brick facade.
She wrote what she called “a miracle wish letter” to Bokis. She explained that her mother fell last Christmas and broke her hip, and her parents moved to Hadley at Elaine from their home in Newfane, Vt. They look out the window all day and seldom leave their room, she wrote, and she wondered if the Home Depot could put a wreath or some lights on the back of the building to cheer them up.
“I am positive this would put a smile on so many faces, even mine,” Kamenides wrote. “You just never know if this might be their last Christmas. I am also sure that this wish will come back to you tenfold.”
Bokis read the handwritten letter and decided he could do a little better than just a wreath. He selected a 9-foot-tall prelit synthetic tree from Home Depot’s stock and asked store employees to help him put it up. That involved 15 people building a platform so the tree could be visible above a 5-foot-high wall.
When Bokis heard that the Sibleys liked to look at birds, he also put a bird feeder and some seed on the outside of the fence that surrounds the Home Depot property.
“It was easy for me to make an impact on someone’s life,” he said. “It gave me a good feeling to be able to help out.”
When Kamenides got the call from Bokis saying he would grant her request, “I cried my eyes out, and he got choked up too,” she said.
They met at the Home Depot and drove to Hadley at Elaine to check out how the tree could be sited so that her parents could see it. She said she was amazed to get personal attention from the store manager.
“He was so gracious with his time,” she said. “I thought we’d have to go through corporate headquarters and there’d be a lot of red tape, but he just made a decision to do it.”
Alta and Bill Sibley have been married for 66 years and have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. They lived in South Hadley during much of their adult life, before retiring to Newfane, Vt., to run an antique shop.
Kamenides said they would have a lit Christmas tree in front of the shop when she came, and that made the visits more exciting.
Bill Sibley was a builder and woodworker, so his daughter sees some continuity in asking the Home Depot to put up a tree for him to see, she said.
The tree is her Christmas gift to them. “What do you get someone at 90?” she asked. “They don’t need more slippers.
“You don’t need to buy stuff, you just do something good for someone,” she said. “There’s always something you can do, and it makes you feel so good inside.”