No hats, scarves, mittens or heavy coats are needed by these holiday carolers.
Rather than walk through frigid air, never knowing who will care to listen to their singing, the caroling employees of the Montgomery County (Ohio) Educational Service Center bring their holiday cheer directly to some of their biggest fans each year.
The tradition started about two years ago when the ESC decided to rethink its annual mitten walk, says Mary Crews, ESC administrative assistant and chair of the group’s wellness program. The mitten walk is traditionally held in November, and employees and their families and friends would put on their cold-weather gear and trudge through the streets of downtown Dayton for about 45 minutes.
Mittens donated by employees went to students in the ESC’s learning centers. While a noble cause, the cold made it less than fun at times for the carolers, Crews says.
Participation had started to dip, and that’s when the carolers hit upon an idea: Rather than risk it being a hit-and-miss event by walking up and down the frozen sidewalks, why not take their songs to an indoor audience that would love to see and hear them?
So, they decided to switch things up a few years ago with a visit to Trinity Community, a retirement home in Beavercreek. Carolers gather inside to walk the halls and dining rooms and serenade the resident seniors.
“We stand there and sing and try to bring cheer to them,” Crews says. “We encourage our employees to bring their little kids, too. Usually, we have the kids ringing bells while we sing Christmas carols.”
The concert lasts about an hour and it’s common to hear residents singing along with the carolers. When the crooning crew is finished, they head out to Marion’s Piazza in Beavercreek.
“Last year, we had 42 employees come out,” Crews says. “We meet there after work and that gives the employees time to go home and collect their spouses and children to sing with us.”
The setlist varies but always includes classics such as “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Sometimes they toss in deeper cuts, including “Little Town of Bethlehem and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” Crews adds.
Like any good musical group, they also take requests.
“Last year, the residents requested ‘White Christmas’ and they love to sing along with us,” Crews recalls. “It’s all just a very cheerful event that our people love. We feel like we’re doing something good.”