By ELAINE ALFARO
Some Christmas gifts just can’t be wrapped, like the time and energy that Noah Homes residents give as they serve their community at Enchanted Village every year.
Noah Homes, a residential care facility for adults with developmental disabilities, transforms their eight acres of land located at 12526 Campo Road in Spring Valley into a holiday wonderland complete with over 200,00 lights and their own DIY Candyland. In the middle of the holiday festivities, you can find Noah Homes residents working in concessions, cleaning up tables, and welcoming attendees as the heart of the event.
There are more than 30,000 people with developmental disabilities in San Diego alone and Noah Homes is a care facility dedicated to creating a space where disabled people can thrive as individuals, according to Katie Renvall, events manager at Noah Homes.
“Noah Homes provides exceptional care for adults with developmental disabilities to give them a community, a voice, a choice as to where they live and what they want to do for the day,” Renvall said. “[We try to] give them that sense of community where they’re free to roam around our property, have dinner at their friends’ house, etc.”
Adapting to COVID-19, Noah Homes converted their Enchanted Village into a drive-thru experience last year, but because most residents are high risk or immunocompromised, they did not get to work at the event. To make up for lost time, many residents will once again be working the event as employees Dec.17-22.
“Adults with developmental disabilities have lost their job throughout the year,” Renvall said. “They’re unable to work in typical settings. This is a great opportunity to give them a purpose, give them a paycheck, and give them tasks. They love welcoming people to their property and introducing themselves. It’s a beautiful palace to be a part of and to spread awareness about.”
Richard, who is one of the residents at Noah Homes and known as “The Sheriff” because of his presence at the event, said he’s excited for “the whole thing (and Santa Claus).”
In addition to Santa Claus, some other featured guests include Buddy the Elf, Elsa and Anna from “Frozen,” and the Grinch.
Enchanted Village started up four years ago and with the help local volunteers, staff, and residents, the preparations snowball into creating an event specifically for the East County community. However, the event has an even greater significant purpose than just spreading the holiday spirit; it helps assuage the costs of providing life-long homes and funds the paychecks residents receive, according to Renvall.
“Enchanted Village is our biggest fundraiser and we rely on donations, ticket sales, and sponsorships because each year we face a one million dollar deficit and need to raise funds to provide life-long homes for our adults,” she said.
In addition to donations, this year community members volunteered their time to help set up the event.
“The USS Lake Erie has come every other week to do the heavy lifting and moving,” said Renvall. “It’s just so nice to see them come and give back to the community even though they already give so much.”
As part of the preparations, according to Renvall, they add something new every year. This year they’ll be highlighting the choral performances happening in their amphitheater because they could not have live music last year.
From the San Diego Children’s Choir to local school choirs, Renvall hopes the performances and event as a whole will infuse the east county community with the holiday spirit present in Noah Homes.
“If anything was lacking these past two years, it’s joy and positivity,” Renvall said. “If we can bring some of that during one of the most stressful times of the year, that’s great. The smiles we bring are pretty priceless.”
To learn more about the event, opportunities to volunteer, or information about purchasing tickets visit enchantedvillage.org.
— Elaine Alfaro is a journalism student at Point Loma Nazarene University and a former intern for the La Mesa Courier.