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Posted on Wed. Dec. 26, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

Home for Holidays reunites families

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Knowing both her daughters would be home for Christmas, Janice Williams went to work in the kitchen.

“I had to cook them their favorites, I had to,” she said. “Turkey and dressing, baked chicken, chitlins, greens, fried corn and mashed potatoes.”

Her daughter Keke Woodson, 34, approved of the menu and then some.

“Woooh! Mama, she knows this,” Woodson exclaimed, as she sat in a recliner in her mom’s apartment on Christmas morning.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008, Woodson can’t walk and is usually confined to the Life Care Center of Fort Wayne, so her presence at this Christmas celebration was extra sweet.

She was able to come home thanks to an ambulance ride from the annual Home for the Holidays program, sponsored by the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority.

Robert Jones was one of two medics who brought Woodson to her mother’s apartment east of downtown. Jones said he has taken part in the program for several years, transporting people from long-term care facilities to spend Christmas Day with their families.

“It’s a real joy to … put smiles on the faces of people that would normally be sad or depressed on that day,” he said. “It’s pretty satisfying for us to be able to do that.”

There was definitely a lot of smiling in Janice Williams’ apartment. She, Keke and her other daughter, LaQusa Woodson, reminisced, joked and laughed about the past. LaQusa stroked Keke’s hand as R&B played on the stereo. Sometimes Keke sang along.

“I like what I’m listening to,” Keke said.

“Yeah, I know. I put it on for you,” her mom said. “I think you’re going to like that whole tape.”

The conversation eventually turned toward Keke’s debilitating disease, which affects her nervous system. Williams recalled the time she learned Keke needed to be placed in a long-term care facility, and she described the guilt she felt because people other than herself were caring for her daughter.

“If I could just get a big house and could have her there, you know, even with a nurse, I would do it,” she said.

But for this Christmas, they had her.

“It means a lot,” LaQusa said.

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