She’s known as the “Witch of Warroad.” Doesn’t sound like a compliment, does it?
It wouldn’t be, unless you’re Loralee Marvin, of Warroad, Minn., who looks forward to Halloween year-round. She says it’s the one time of year a person can dress up and act like a total goofball and no one seems to think anything less of them.
In her town, it’s made her a bit of a celebrity. The Witch of Warroad gets up to 700 trick-or-treaters each year. Pretty amazing considering there are only 1,700 people in the whole town.
Thirteen years ago, Loralee retired. She knew she needed to find a way to continue to get out and connect with people. She and her dog, Uffda, had already been bringing smiles to the faces of her parents and other nursing home residents.
Then the Warroad Senior Living Center was built. Loralee says it’s an amazing place. Along with independent, assisted, Alzheimer's and total care units, the facility has a theater, chapel, beauty parlor and — get this — a bar!
Loralee isn’t a drinker herself, but once a month she created happy hour for the residents with popcorn, decorated tables, prizes and seasonal cocktails.
Then COVID hit.
All the visits with U2 (her current dog, named Uffda Two after the former dog) and all the happy hours were shut down. The residents were shut in and Loralee was shut out.
Loralee was worried about her friends’ lack of entertainment and the sadness and loneliness that could set in.
So last Easter, Loralee dressed up in her Easter Bunny costume (yes, she just happened to have one), grabbed her friend Annie and loaded up the baskets. They hopped around outside the windows giving it their full enthusiasm.
The residents were delighted. So was Loralee. It was like Halloween!
As chance may have it, Loralee has an entire room above her garage filled with costumes. She and Annie decided to put them to good use by dressing up the next weekend and the weekend after that, and the weekend after that.
They have dressed as clowns, Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam, fishermen, dog catchers, Santa and his elves, beach bums, flamingos, lumberjacks, bag ladies, scarecrows, farmers and a whole lot of other things.
The employees call them the "COVID Clowns." The residents are like groupies, waiting each week in anticipation of the show outside their windows.
Here’s the interesting thing about this act of kindness: Loralee looks forward to it as much as the residents. Her husband is confined to a wheelchair. As his health declines and things get trickier at home, these weekly outings are a bright spot for Loralee — sort of like the fun she gets from Halloween. Knowing she will get to dress up and let loose brings joy to her week and helps her feel better about herself.
When I told Loralee I think she is wonderful, she simply said, “I don’t think of it as being wonderful, I think of it as sharing.”
Loralee knows her gifts. She knows what brings her joy, and she uses it to bring joy to others. How sweet is that?
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com.
Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men's basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.