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The nursing home 'Santa'

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— Maria Oeffler is a bargain hunter, and for the past five years she’s put those skills to good use — and for a good cause — during the holiday season.

“I just enjoy shopping and I know the residents are getting the benefit out of it and are going to have a present on Christmas,” said Oeffler, who is food service director at the Albany County Nursing Home.

Each year, the Professional Staff Association (the union for nursing home employees) donates a portion of its funding for Oeffler to purchase gifts for a selection of residents. This year, Oeffler was able to buy about 100 presents with $1,000.

“Some of them get one gift, some get two or three. It all depends on what they asked for,” said Oeffler.

Oeffler bases her shopping off of a wish list compiled by nursing home staff who find out what residents need or want. This year, she shopped for about 55 residents and she always recruits her daughter Michelle and her 11-year-old granddaughter Kyra as helpful “elves.”

“I get slippers, bath robes, crafts, oil paintings, clothing, sweaters, a comforter,” said Oeffler.

There was even some money left over so a few residents got the treat of getting their hair done.

She starts shopping on Black Friday, making a list of the sales and heading out at 4 a.m. to snag the best deals.

“We grab everything,” said Oeffler. “It takes two or three weeks (total) and we watch for things to go on sale.”

If she purchases something and it goes on sale later, she brings it back to get the cheaper price and uses that extra money for more presents. Kyra especially loves the shopping part.

“She loves going shopping with us. This year she was out at 4 a.m. Black Friday, too,” said Oeffler.

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