DODGE CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – As the holiday season nears, spending time with loved ones has been made increasingly difficult due to the pandemic. In a year with so much isolation, a group of car dealerships is working to safely connect loved ones for the holidays.
“We thought, what could we do that would be a good gift to give back to the community of Dodge City that has served us so well over the years,” said Jim Lewis, owner of Lewis Automotive Group.
Many nursing homes have been closed to visitation due to COVID-19.
“I wanted to do something for the nursing homes because I knew they had been stuck inside due to COVID,” said Jamey Lewis Gonzales, CEO of Lewis Automotive Group.
In Dodge City, the Lewis family donated mobile zoom monitors to local long-term care facilities to help residents be able to see and communicate with their families this Christmas. They call them zoom rooms.
“It is a phenomenal gift and it is going to make it so much better for a lot of our folks to be able to communicate with their family and friends. It will make them feel like they’re closer to them. They’re already amazed [residents] because they’ve seen it in action already,” said John Van Hook, Executive Director of Manor of the Plains.
The touch screen monitors are DTEN Me devices, dedicated specifically for zoom calls and have large screens for easy viewing.
The devices are also mounted on rolling carts making them mobile and more accessible for residents.
The Lewis’ said they wanted everyone to have the chance to spend the holidays with their families.
“The staff can roll these in from resident to resident and room to room and give the opportunity for the resident to maybe speak with some friends, family, and make them feel a little closer to home than we’ve been able to the last several months,” said Jim Lewis.
For one local woman, it’s rescued her holiday.
Sheila Eichman hasn’t been in close contact with her dad for nine months due to visitation restrictions at his nursing home.
“I haven’t hugged him or gotten you know, close to him, in a long time, since March,” said Eichman, a longtime resident of Dodge City.
She says she was hoping to be able to spend the holidays by his side.
“Previously before COVID, we could check them out for a few hours, take them to your home, enjoy the family time, and bring them back. Now we can’t do that,” she Eichman.
Although she won’t have a traditional Christmas, she will be wishing him a merry Christmas, virtually.
“It just, it means so much. And actually now, with the new tablet, we could do a family call so all of could be on the phone call, and that would just make his day,” said Eichman.
She says without the zoom devices, her dad may have had to spend one of his first holidays without her.
But now, she can continue to carry out traditions from a distance.
“They have already missed so much, so anything we can do to make their holiday brighter, is a plus,” she Eichman.
Ten zoom devices were donated to eight local long term care facilities. The facilities will be able to use the systems year round and residents have already started video calling and connecting with their families.
“This is really a tool they can use all year long. A lot of people have family and friends that live states away, even countries away. So we thought, how easy to use for the residents,” said Jamey Lewis Gonzales.
For people like Eichman, it’s brought a positive light to an otherwise difficult holiday season.