At Hacienda, like in many homes, the holidays are a time when family, friends and the community come together to partake in joyful traditions. And though traditions may evolve over time, what doesn’t change is the dedication of the people who ensure that they continue.
Christmas and the Holiday Season traditions that were started by fire and police personnel 28 years ago, as well as those started by the members of the IBEW 640 19 years ago, continue to touch the lives of residents and our staff. The traditions bring our residents together in a way that would make any Grinch smile with glee. But what makes these holiday traditions possible involves the stealthy work of Santa’s secret helper.
For two decades, Santa’s secret helper has made it her mission to know and understand each client so well, that they always receive the perfect gift during the holidays. A task that Santa’s secret helper masters, even when clients are unable to write, verbalize, or use other forms communication to express their wishes. So, who is Santa’s secret helper? Her name: Jackie Austin.
Jackie started coming to Hacienda as a visitor over 20 years ago. One of Hacienda’s long-term care residents was Jackie’s cousin, a teenager named Yvette, who at the time was the oldest survivor of a non-fatal drowning. At the age of five, Yvette and her twin sister fell into a pool, but only Yvette survived. The anoxic (depletion of oxygen) brain injury Yvette suffered caused severe brain damage, which led to her family’s eventual decision to place her in Hacienda’s care.
Jackie’s active participation in her cousin’s care and her sincere compassion made her a natural fit for Hacienda. So when a job opened up, it was no surprise that staff encouraged her to apply. Jackie applied and accepted the offer to become a caregiver, and later became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
Twenty years later, she continues serving Hacienda’s residents through her role as Residential Coordinator. Not only does she know our clients and their families very well, she inventories and tracks their belongings (no missing socks here), prepares their rooms, shops for them, and helps make their lives fulfilling—which includes co-coordinating events like Prom and the holiday parades.
When asked what gifts she would provide if she were Santa, she smiled and replied, “I would put our clients on my private Santa jet with their caregivers and take them all to Disneyland and have a great time!”
Thank you to all the organizations and Santas that make our holiday season the best annual tradition our clients and staff enjoy.