The St. James Health and Rehabilitation Center kicked off the holidays Saturday with an open house.

The holiday season is already looming large there, with a turkey dinner planned for Thanksgiving in which and residents’ families may reserve a private dining room and bring their own holiday meal.

There are also trees to be decorated and crafty activities in the works.

Admissions Director and Medicaid Specialist Theresa Mickens led a tour of the facility. The home was clean and cheerful decorated with residents’ art. Smiling oldsters interacted with the staff and engaged them in conversation.

Administrator Brenda Smith said the rehabilitation center employs more than 150 workers, many of whom are county residents.

In addition to assisted living, St. James offers outpatient occupational, speech and physical therapy services. Smith said the center is partnering with Gulf Coast State College to offer training for certified nursing assistants.

Familiar names among the 71 residents of St. James include Crooms, Faircloth, Floyd and Braxton. For the first time in years, the center provides assisted living within Franklin County. Mickens said many residents have strong family support locally.

Peggy Woodruff, whose son is a resident of St. James Bay had high praise for the rehabilitation center, “My son Michael was in a motorcycle accident two years ago. We have some experience with health care centers. This is the nicest facility I have seen. The staff is very caring, compassionate and sincere.”

After lunch, a number of residents met in the dining room for a game of bingo. Players win currency that they can spend in the bingo store after the game.

You can help the residents and spread a little holiday cheer by donating small gifts and prizes for the “bingo store.” Regifted items are welcome.

Possible prizes include combs, brushes, scented soaps and grooming supplies other than aerosols. Hand sanitizers and other products containing alcohol cannot be distributed.

Sugar free candy or cookies are welcomed. Jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, crossword, Sudoku and word search books crayons and other art supplies are popular. Socks, slippers, t-shirts, hats, jewelry, picture frames and knick knacks are all treasured prizes.

If you would like to contribute, contact Lois at 653-5857.