TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Jesse Griffin, aka Clarence-AS2, knew what she was getting in to when she began managing the senior Christmas Wish Box: playing it forward in Truckee.
Before the annual Christmas party in the Truckee Senior Apartments common room — which sparkles with seasonal decor, catered food, holiday cheer and piano tunes, and the gala arrival of Santa by Truckee Fire Department engine — hours and days and close-to-all-nighters are pulled to make it happen.
“I start decorating in October,” said Clarence-AS2 (from the angelic character in “It’s a Wonderful Life”).
That way she’s ready to dive into gathering wishes from senior citizens, filled with the help of donations, and packaged into more than 50 festive gift bags, chock full of specific wishes and for the past several years, goodies from the Ritz-Carlton.
Clarence has a few connections in town, including “an EMT and a cop,” and more recently the Ritz-Carlton.
She was at the property and met Bernie Atkinson, Human Resources coordinator, who jumped in wholeheartedly through Community Footprints, the Ritz-Carlton’s philanthropic arm.
The Ritz-Carlton staff — from all departments — stuffs the Wish Box gift bags for Truckee Donner Senior Apartment residents with teas, coffees, spa products, writing tablets, and more, which rounds out what Clarence and her elves have already procured.
“I worked with Patti for about for about four years before taking it over,” said Clarence. “It really is a joyful thing, it brings great joy to get to hang out with Santa, too.”
Clarence is incredibly grateful for community members and organizations that come together for the Wish Box, including Christmas gifts for resident’s pets.
The Ritz-Carlton’s team helps cook, set, and serve a lunch buffet, with Leticia Aguilar’s cuisine, also. “She (Jesse) was so giving, never once considered herself,” said Atkinson. “Every time we saw her she was making sure it’s good for them. We wanted to spoil her for a day.”
Atkinson calls the work Clarence does passionate, noting the attention to detail, and her excitement for other people’s gifts. Since Clarence is a resident she knows the residents, and scores personal items. Everything from an Elvis calendar to a Charlie Chaplin poster might find its way into a Wish Box bag.
Clarence, in turn, was treated to a day at the Ritz-Carlton, including an organic massage, lounging in the gracious Highlands Spa (click here) amenities: Eucalyptus-scented steam room, hot tub, experiential shower, sitting poolside mid-mountain, where the Ritz-Carlton is nestled at Northstar California.
Clarence then enjoyed lunch in Manzanita (click here), with a Delta Asparagus (crab, watercress salad, Arbequina olive oil) starter and Proscuitto Pizza (pea tendrils, prosciutto di parma, arugula).
The day finished with a mini-facial, and, more steam.
“Everybody in their life should experience that once,” bubbled Clarence-AS2, the self-professed “spa virgin.” “They took Apple Annie and made her a grand dame.”
Clarence, whose bountiful aliases include The Movie Lady, said, “Life certainly is a ‘Pocketful of Miracles,’” referencing director Frank Capra’s film.
For photo gallery of the Christmas Wish Box party click here.
“Christmas is not just a day — it’s about playing it forward.”
— Jesse Griffen, aka Clarence-AS2