Elf Project rewards Spanish Cove staff

Yukon retirement community's residents share appreciation through gift-giving effort

Sharing their gratitude to Spanish Cove Retirement Village employees for their support of the Christmas “Elf Project” are, from left, Cove nursing home administrator and chief operating officer Cheryl O’Neill, RN, Cove Board of Trustees Chairwoman Velta Johnson and Santa Claus. Some 150 Spanish Cove employees benefit from the annual gift-giving effort. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

The aptly named “Elf Project” has spread Christmas joy to some 150 employees at Yukon’s largest senior living community.

Residents at Spanish Cove Retirement Village contribute new and “gently” used items throughout the year to present each December to show their gratitude to staff members.

Spanish Cove personnel came Dec. 10 to pick out their Christmas gifts inside the Cove’s Huff Plaza, 1401 S Cornwell. The employees also enjoyed a Christmas holiday luncheon.

Spanish Cove Board of Trustees Chairwoman Velta Johnson coordinates this yuletide effort, which began 10 years ago when she moved to the Cove.

“We started gathering small items to make Christmas a little merrier for our employees because we appreciate them so much,” Johnson said. “It has grown.”

Spanish Cove resident Jim Barlow seeks some extra attention during a Christmas holiday luncheon for the annual “Elf Project.” (Photo provided)

Organizers start collecting items each January for the Elf Project’s gift baskets, which contain everything from gift cards to blankets to glassware. Many items are hand-made.

“We collect all things, all year long,” Johnson said. “Stuff appears at my door all year. We have a nice storage closet.

“In the first part of October, we set up a room down the hall and start making Christmas baskets.”

Cove staff members draw numbers for their gifts. If it’s not something the employee wants or they see something else they prefer, they can select “exchange” gifts at Plaza Hall.

Each employee also gets a nice holiday “bonus” from the residents through am employee appreciation fund.

Gifts not claimed by Spanish Cove employees are brought over to Nina Willingham Senior Housing, 900 E Vandament.

Spanish Cove Pavilion nursing director Jacki Dunlap and assistant nursing director Heather Tinsley carry blankets – donated by Cove residents in the annual “Elf Project” – to the Pavilion’s night-shift workers. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


The Elf Project means much more to Spanish Cove employees than just receiving gifts, according to Cheryl O’Neill, RN, the Cove’s nursing home administrator and chief operating officer.

“It’s the hugs and love you get coming in this building,” said O’Neill, who’s worked at Spanish Cove for 21 years. “Our employees love this day. We walk through here and really feel appreciated.”

This Christmas giving is something Cove residents “do from the heart,” she added.

“It’s amazing what they’re able to raise as a gift for our employees,” O’Neill said. “The staff is enamored by everything that gets done for us this time of year by the residents. For some employees, this may be their only Christmas gift this year.”

Johnson said, “We love our employees.”

To which O’Neill quickly responded, “And the employees love the residents. That’s why sets us apart. We truly do have relationships at Spanish Cove.”

Spanish Cove residents Claudell White (left) and Cathy Anderson wear appropriate headgear as they show appreciation to Spanish Cove employees during the annual Christmas season “Elf Project”. (Photo provided)