Making a Difference
NOT WORK — Pat Motl makes a difference by decorating at Whispering Oak for the holidays, with at least 56 trees this year. Said Motl, “If you like what you’re doing, it doesn’t seem like work.” (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)
By KATHY PAULSEN
You might say "Deck The Halls" is what this lady does best, but she does so many things well. Pat Motl’s decorating talents shined recently at a tour of Whispering Oak in Ellendale.
Visitors are welcome to stop by Whispering Oak to visit with the residents and see all the beautiful Christmas trees and decorations. Pat is busy planning an Open House for Saturday, Dec. 7 from 2-4 during Christmas in the Country. All are welcome.
Whispering Oak is home to many people who, even though they are no longer are able to stay in their own homes, still enjoy holiday decorations. Pat makes their home look festive.
Coming in the door, visitors are immediately greeted by a musical Christmas tree, one of the many trees Pat Motl has decorated for the season. There are at least 56 trees – large trees, small trees, tall trees, short trees, fat trees, pencil trees, and many miniature trees gracing the doors of the residents’ rooms.
While decorating one Christmas tree is enough work for most people, Pat said, "If you like what you’re doing, it doesn't seem like work."
Whispering Oak is a big place, and no space is wasted. In addition to the Christmas trees, Pat adds wreaths and stockings, lights and colorful bulbs, Christmas arrangements, flowers, and angels.
When additional rooms were added to Whispering Oak a few years ago, one 10x12 room was reserved for Pat to store the seasonal decorations she has accumulated over the years. She has a system of "filing" the decorations for all the different holidays.
Where does Pat get the trees and decorations she uses? She visits rummage sales and thrift stores, and takes advantage of after-Christmas sales.
Pat also helps make one particular family’s Christmas special each year. She searches for a Christmas tree and decorations, then talks with the local school to locate a family who could use a special Christmas gift that year. The tree and decorations are donated to the needy family, so they can decorate a Christmas tree together. A few special Christmas presents are also included to put under the tree as well.
Pat also decorates a "Wish Tree" each year, where people can pick a slip of paper off the tree telling of someone who could use a special gift. They then purchase a gift, mark it if it is for a boy or girl, and an age, and then bring it to Whispering Oak. When Christmas arrives, the gifts are distributed.
Pat decorates trees for the “Festival of Trees” event held at the History Center in Owatonna each year. One of the trees was decorated with kaleidoscopes, and the other with fall colors. The trees are put on display, and later auctioned off with the money donated to the Disabled Individuals program.
Over the years many people have enjoyed the decorations at Whispering Oak. In gratitude, people have donated trees, lights and ornaments they no longer use. Pat found a white Christmas tree, complete with lights, along the curb in Blooming Prairie one year, which she continues to decorate every year too.
With help from her friend Cynthia Nelson, Pat has once again transformed Whispering Oak for the Christmas holiday.
Pat and Cynthia start decorating early in November. They try to do most of the decorating during the evening so it doesn't interfere with regular activities. Some of the residents come out to watch, and others are surprised when they come out of their rooms in the morning.
Many colorful trees are on display this year.
An especially beautiful tree is decorated in deep purple and white, and another in Christmas red and white. These two trees were decorated by Pat and Cynthia in memory of their children, Amanda and Matthew, who died in separate accidents 17 years ago. Purple was Amanda’s favorite color, and red was Matthew’s.
There were several large trees covered with large gold balls, ribbon and lights. Another tree was covered with white lights, white ornaments and white flowers with a big gold angel on top.
By the beauty shop stood another great tree that had curlers, brushes, combs, perm rods, and curling irons between garlands of cerise ribbon. Below the tree was a replica of a hairdresser’s chair.
In honor of the military and the U.S. Flag, Pat decorated one tree in red, white and blue. Another tree was covered with red and white poinsettia blossoms.
There was a Red Hatters' tree, festooned with a collection of red hats and red and purple ribbon, a tree covered with Santa Claus lights and small Christmas stockings, a white tree decorated all in red, and a "Rock n’ Roll" tree complete with 45 rpm records and white bobby sox.
Pat also decorated a tree for men, which was really three slim trees decorated with little red "lantern" lights, topped with a camouflage Santa Hat and several other camouflage hats and pheasant feathers. Below the tree is a stuffed moose that moves, along with a big teddy bear.
Pat also decorated a tree to look like a snowman. He is wearing a big black top hat, red scarf around the neck and black mittens. She also had a "Snowball tree" covered in many different sizes of snowballs. Another tree was decorated using white snowflakes and Christmas lights that were red cardinals.
There was also a tree with Mr. and Mrs. Santa standing at the foot, which had a big white Santa Claus at the top, and a musical tree that played Christmas songs while the lights twinkled.
Pat once decorated a tree with her grandson's miniature tractors on it, placing a toy barn underneath, calling it her "Farmers' Tree." She has also decorated a tree with Harley Davidson items.
Several of the trees with the big gold bulbs and ribbons, along with a large portion of the pine garland, are kept up year round.
Pat also decorates several trees for other holidays: New Year’s Day, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. She said about 80 kids stopped at Whispering Oak this year at Halloween to see her Halloween tree. Seeing all the young children was a real treat for the residents.
In addition to all the trees, Pat also sets up a great number of table displays of collections of Christmas items: Nativity sets, snowmen, angels, colorful Christmas balls and Christmas wreaths. One wreath was white with big blue bulbs and held a white snowman in the middle. She also decorates many of the residents’ entrance doors for them.
Hanging in the dining room were red Christmas stockings with each of the residents’ names on them, and two big doors at the end of the hall held two large red bows.
Pat also had a decorative sleigh filled with greeting cards that were available for the residents to purchase.
Old history scrapbooks compiled by Ruby Jensen of Geneva were available for browsing through, which held old newspaper clippings about events and people from the area.
Pat works for Whispering Oak Monday - Friday for about 18 hours a week and plans a number of different activities during the morning hours, as well as lines up special events for the afternoons from time to time.
Pat enjoys music, plays keyboards, and has CD's of Christmas music playing throughout Whispering Oak during the holiday season.
Besides the holiday music, Pat tries to line up special musical entertainment for the residents to enjoy, as well as playing for them herself at dinner. There is a piano on the main level, a electrical piano upstairs which her sister plays when she comes to visit, and two other keyboards.
Several of the residents play music too. Alice Richards still likes to play piano from time to time, as well as sing for special events, and Ann Klemmensen whistles and her whistle sounds like a cardinal.
During the Christmas Holiday many different groups stop in at Whispering Oak with special music. The preschool children at NRHEG will visit and sing Christmas Carols, and bring the residents Christmas cards they created. The Drama Club from New Richland recently came dressed in different characters from movies, and the local Red Hatters visited Whispering Oak on Tuesday before Thanksgiving to sing Christmas Carols.
Pat also organizes church services for the residents each week, which most generally are held on Friday mornings at 9:00. She also organizes other events like card games, and leads chair exercises and balloon volleyball for the residents, every week too.
There is no way Pat could accomplish everything she does at Whispering Oak in 18 hours a week, so she volunteers a great deal of her time there.
Pat also works as an associate at the Fitness Center in Ellendale, serves as Treasurer for the Berlin Town Board and also works for Johnson and Doehoefer P.A. during the tax season.
Pat is one busy lady and truly makes a difference in the lives of many people.