Nursing home residents bring ho-ho-ho to holiday party


Charles and Helen Graham have been longtime givers.

For nearly 50 of the 55 years they have been married, they have helped people in need year-round.

There was the unemployed mother of five whose husband left her and their five kids.

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There were the families who lost their homes to fires.

There were the nearly 30 years they dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus and gave gifts to children at Christmastime.

And there were the thousands of teddy bears Charles won at the Indiana State Fair and gave to people.

Even with the Hayden couple having to move into Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown a year ago, they still found a way to give.

On Thursday afternoon, they donned Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits for the first time in a couple of years.

During Hoosier Christian Village’s first Polar Express holiday party for the community, they visited with children, posed for pictures and gave each child a teddy bear.

“He just loves kids,” 74-year-old Helen said of her husband, who is 73.

Their son, Roger Graham, brought a truckload of teddy bears to Hoosier Christian Village to pass out to employees, children and anyone else who wanted one. Roger said the stuffed animals had been in storage at his parents’ home.

He said it’s great they still focus on giving.

“It’s quite astonishing, actually,” Roger said. “That’s all they do is give. They say the happiest people are the ones that give, and they are quite happy.”

The couple’s giving started when Charles worked for Cummins. The local engine company often helped families in need, including at Christmastime.

“It was our Christmas. We didn’t buy for each other, but we always shared,” Helen said. “We shared Christmas with families, and the guys (at Cummins) would take up money and bring stuff. We just helped with a lot of families.”

The mother of five was the first family they helped.

“Her husband left her with five kids to raise, and she had no income coming in and no job,” Helen said. “(Charles) started bringing stuff home from the Cummins guys and helping that family.”

Each year, Helen said they assisted nearly 100 families, providing food, clothing, furniture and other needs.

“They would come to our house to get stuff out of our garage,” she said.

Those items were either bought by the Grahams or donated by Cummins co-workers and area individuals and churches.

“There were probably about 20 churches that helped bring stuff,” Helen said. “Everybody just pitched in and helped us. We’ve had a lot of good friends down through the years.”

In collecting the stuffed animals, the Grahams spent about 10 days at the state fair each year, and Charles won them while playing games on the midway.

“He won about 8,000 animals at the state fair all of the time we were going,” Helen said. “We would take our vacation, and that’s how we would do it. We stayed there and won them. We used to have a contest who could win the most bears, and he would give them away at Christmastime. That’s what we would do.”

One time, Roger said a reporter from The Indianapolis Star followed Charles to his car as he made multiple trips with the stuffed animals and did a story about it.

People working in the parking lots at the state fair also became familiar with Charles and gave him special treatment.

“When they saw his car come in, it was just like the governor,” Roger said. “They would motion him on, and he parked right up front, and everybody gets a bear at the end of the day.”

In October 2016, Charles had to have his right leg amputated. Since Helen couldn’t take care of him by herself, they decided to move into Hoosier Christian Village.

They didn’t let that stop them from giving.

Charles said it was fun to be Santa again.

“It’s just something I felt called to do years ago by the good Lord above,” he said. “It makes you feel pretty good. I don’t do it to get notoriety or any of that. I do it because I love the people, and I enjoy it.”

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