VIDEO BY LIZ FABIAN/PHOTO BY GRANT BLANKENSHIP Wesley Glen Ministries resident Johnny Bell, second from right, hugs Jane Claxton as she and Karen Shockley, left, help Wesley Glen Ministries residents do their Christmas shopping in an onsite holiday shop Wednesday. Claxton works year round to collect gifts for the once a year shop for the mentally challenged residents of Wesley Glen Ministries
Jane Claxton has only one developmentally disabled son at Wesley Glen Ministries, but she treats all 42 residents there as her own.
As president of the auxiliary of the community for mentally challenged adults on the former Agape Village campus, the retired Mount de Sales Academy teacher and guidance counselor coordinates a Santa Shop where the residents can choose free gifts for family and friends.
“(The residents) probably didn’t know they had this need to give to others, but now they are just delighted,” said John Irwin, development director of Wesley Glen Ministries. “Here they get grandmother’s gift or sister’s gift.”
Claxton and the other ladies in the auxiliary collect donations from various places, including local churches that support the Methodist ministry.
While she is quick to share credit with others, it’s Claxton who stores hundreds of gifts in her garage and sorts them year-round.
“My husband teases me that we have things strewn out all across the house,” she said.
Since Claxton’s 40-year-old son, Joe, has been living at Wesley Glen Ministries for about six years, she has been able to get to know and love all the residents.
She takes great care to make sure she has an appropriate selection for their family members and will steer the shoppers toward the right gifts.
Becky Yossett was grinning ear to ear when she had finished shopping and started wrapping her presents.
“I love it,” Yossett said before sharing warm hugs with the ladies at the shop.
Claxton’s own experience in raising her son brings a greater appreciation of the challenges caregivers would face trying to take the residents shopping during the busiest season of the year.
“God has led her to this place to serve in all that she does as president,” said auxiliary member Margaret Halliburton, who was singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” as she carried out shopping bags of goodies this week before sending the residents on their merry way.
Claxton spreads out the shopping over several days to limit the number of clientele at any one time so enough attention can be devoted to each person. She divides up the new or slightly used merchandise to ensure there’s as good a selection for the last group as there is the first.
It’s important that the gifts are eye-catching for shoppers who can easily lose focus. Even donated hotel toiletries are wrapped in bags and bows.
As soon as someone chooses a gift, Claxton arrives right behind to adjust the shelves to keep them from looking picked over.
“I’m determined this is going to look nice. I want it to look as nice as any store,” Claxton said. “I feel if we get things looking nice, they’ll be proud of what they get.”
Claxton’s good deeds extend beyond spreading Christmas cheer at Wesley Glen Ministries.
She organizes bake sales at the ministry’s annual fish fry and helps with its sponsorship of the Cherry Blossom Road Race. She makes jars of jellies and relishes and countless baked goods for fundraisers.
“Her latest endeavor is to make hand cream ‘From Our Hands to Yours’ with another volunteer,” Helen Weathers wrote in an e-mail nominating Claxton for the Above and Beyond feature.
“The things she does go way beyond what one ordinarily expects from a volunteer.”
Patty Oliver, wife of Wesley Glen Ministries CEO Billy Oliver, said Claxton is busy cleaning and furnishing a new community house for Claxton’s son and others in the ministry.
“She just has given so much of herself to this ministry,” Oliver said.
“It’s just incredible what she’s done.”
If you know of a person going above and beyond to help the community -- someone whose work might otherwise go unrecognized -- please let us know. To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.