Bethlehem came to Heritage Place the week before Christmas and the wise men followed the star to Soldotna accompanied by sheep, goats and a manger thanks to the Bethlehem Revisited cast from College Heights Baptist Church. “We wanted to bring the living nativity here for our residents as most couldn’t go to Bethlehem Revisited so we asked the folks at College Heights Baptist Church if they would be willing to come here and bring the message of Christmas, so they generously donated even more of their time and came here and created the Nativity here for us in our town square,” Aud Walaszek, Heritage Place activities coordinator told the Dispatch in an interview. Jonah Huckaby, youth pastor at College Heights and one of the cast said, “It was delightful to come and present Christmas to the residents here in a unique way that they could enjoy and remember that the best gift of all is Christ coming to save us.” Connie Combs a College Heights member added, “I just love Bethlehem Revisited, it brings Christ back into Christmas and it was so nice to reach out to this part of the community in a special way and we were thrilled when Aud asked us. Our membership is amazing and filled with great volunteers and all we did was ask and everybody responded and made bringing the live nativity here seamless,” she said.
A few days later Jenna Hansen brought her reindeer “Crash & Comet” to Heritage Place to bring joy to the residents and a photo op for their families. And while on a recruiting run from the North Pole Santa himself stopped by to see how Comet and Crash were coming along with their flight training, “They’re still strictly VFR as far as I know, but I’m in college now so I’m learning a lot and will be working with them on their instrument rating during semester break,” said Hansen who has used Crash and Comet to raise money for charities during the holiday season over that last few years. Hansen was also the 2012 Caring for the Kenai winner and her family still operates her sea glass business that recycles bottle glass into jewelry. “It’s one thing seeing a reindeer for the first time, but it’s a whole other experience seeing people who have never seen a reindeer see one for the first time and it’s the joy on their faces that keeps me coming back and doing this for the community,” said Hansen.
According to Walaszek the Heritage Place community is going to continue giving back in the coming year and that will include making polar fleece blankets for the “students in transition” program that reaches out to students without a permanent dwelling. “So while people are doing New Years -spring cleaning if they want to donate their polar fleece 50”x60” they can do that here at Heritage Place. Also if they want to donate shoe boxes and Christmas wrapping paper we are starting “Operation Christmas Child” 2016 right now,” she said.