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December 15. 2013 8:41PM

In the spirit of the season, Windham Terrace residents bake for needy

New Hampshire native Marion White mixes batter in the kitchen at Windham Terrace Saturday morning. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

WINDHAM -- It's been several decades since Grace Chartrand worked in the kitchen of her home in East Providence, R.I., where she'd whip up her favorite apple pie for her three sons to enjoy over the holiday season.

Chartrand's children are all grown up now and her former life in Rhode Island has become a memory. These days Chartrand calls the Windham Terrace assisted living facility home, and holiday preparations have taken on a new sort of meaning.

But she hasn't forgotten the simple joy that comes from baking for others.

On Saturday morning, Chartrand and fellow residents Blanche Hannon, Dorothy Nelson, Marion White and Helen Walther were hard at work in the facility's cozy kitchen. The smells of warm banana bread wafted through the air as the ladies, all in their 80s and 90s now, recalled Christmases past and present.

"You tend to make it look nicer when you're giving it away," Hannon declared as she observed Chartrand's full-body technique of stirring the bread batter.

Though small in stature, Chartrand used all her strength to whip together the bowl's lumpy contents.

"Wow, she can do it for the both of us," Hannon quipped, a smile spreading across Chartrand's face.

Over the past week or so, the Windham Terrace residents have been discovering that perhaps the best part of the holiday season is doing something nice for their new neighbors. The ladies have baked about 70 loaves of banana and pumpkin bread to be tucked inside the holiday food baskets being delivered to needy Windham households via the Windham Helping Hands charity.

Judy Newcomb, who serves on the local nonprofit's board, said the partnership between Helping Hands and Windham Terrace has been mutually beneficial.

"With their assistance, we're able to get more done at once, and in a shorter amount of time," said Newcomb, whose aunt, Lillian Stevens, is a resident at Windham Terrace.

"Together we make a difference in the community and we provide better service to the families and people we serve," Newcomb said

Having participated in several of the baking sessions so far, Nelson heartily agreed.

"I think sometimes people forget the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of the parties and gift buying," Nelson said. "I've found fulfillment in giving back to others and volunteering my time for a good cause — not just during the holidays but all year long."

"Doing something good and thoughtful for someone else is heart-warming and instills hope in those whose spirits need to be lifted," she added.

Life Enrichment Director Alicia Sell said she hopes to continue the facility's working relationship with Helping Hands.

"A vibrant and giving spirit fills Windham Terrace, and it's wonderful seeing how much fun the residents are having with this project," Sell said.

Over the past several months, the assisted living residents have worked on various projects with the charity, including stringing beads to be used at the Helping Hands walkathon and making the construction-paper mitten ornaments to hang on the Helping Hands "angel trees" at the Nesmith Library and at the town's Windham Shopping Extravaganza event earlier this month.

Each ornament lists the age and gender of a local child in need, along with his or her Christmas wishes.

"We're definitely looking forward to doing other projects for Helping Hands in the future," said Sell.

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