Hard Rock staff creates and delivers Christmas trees for Isleta Pueblo elders

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Santa's little helpers can be found everywhere this time of year, even at the Isleta Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where staff created 166 mini Christmas trees for Isleta elders.

Many of the trees were delivered Wednesday to home-bound elders in the pueblo with help from the Isleta Elder Center staff.

As for the rest of the trees, according to Nate Jiron, director of sales at the Hard Rock, the plan was for the Elder Center to deliver them to the elders in the pueblo and to the assisted living center.

Decorating trees for Isleta elders was the idea of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino CEO, Pamela Gallegos, who says her goal is to give back to the pueblo.

When Gallegos approached the staff with her idea, they took it and ran with it, deciding to make it a competition between employees to see who could decorate their tree the best, said Jiron.

All of the staff were given a bare mini tree, and a week later they were judged. Their decorated tree then became "a donation of the employee," said Jiron, to be given to an elder.

The first place winner was Branda Sanchez, from accounting, with her pueblo-themed tree, while Rachel Lucero-Maldonado, from hotel sales, and Valerie Gomez, from compliance, tied for second place.

Gomez's tree was made to look like a Santa, while Lucero-Maldonado's tree was attached to a board and made to resemble the Rockefeller Center's ice rink.

Many other trees were decorated around a theme, such as western, breast cancer and pueblo pottery.

Wednesday morning, Jiron, along with Keith Parker, Joanne Sanchez, Patsy Benavidez, Jackie Keryte, and Claudine Flores of the Hard Rock, and Edna Jiron, Elizabeth Lucero, and Jeffrey Jojola from the Elder Center, loaded up three vehicles with mini trees and took to the streets of Isleta.

With three separate routes, they surprised elders throughout the pueblo with a little holiday cheer. For some elders, who said they hadn't been able to put up a tree or any decorations this year, the miniature trees were the first signs of Christmas in their homes.

In other homes, such as that of 89-year-old Juana Lujan's, the elders were hard at work at their craft tables whipping together Santa pillows and other handmade items.

But in every home, the small, uniquely decorated trees brought big smiles to their recipients' faces, including 98-year-old Agnes Dill, who told the casino staff that she couldn't see very well, but she could see the tree and it was beautiful.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.