Holiday cheer multiplies through acts of kindness by community members. 

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The residents at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights were treated to a live performance by traveling carolers from Performing Arts 5678 on a frigid Saturday afternoon.

Typically, Autumn Lake would welcome numerous community groups into their facility to perform for their residents during the holidays. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they have been in lockdown and prohibited from inviting groups to perform inside. Instead, the staff spread holiday joy to the residents through in-house entertainment and "reindeer games." In addition, Autumn Lake was the recipient of community generosity of donated gifts, letters and messages written in chalk for the residents to see, thanks to local Girl Scouts.  

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Mara Cruwys, a resident of Berkeley Heights, donated the caroler performance to not only spread holiday cheer to the residents at Autumn Lake but also to support a local business. Cathy Balsamo, Concierge and Community Liaison for Autumn Lake, was determined to make it work in the world of social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions. "If there is a will, there is a way to work it out for our people," said Balsamo.

The carolers performed for each wing as the residents watched from inside and viewed through an open door. The performance brought tears to Balsamo's eyes as she watched the residents enjoy and applaud after each song. Balsamo encouraged the residents to sing along. Abbie, Kyra and Emily performed the classic carol "Let it Snow" and "Let it Go" from the popular Disney movie Frozen.

Jessica Lombardi, Owner [Director, Choreographer, Instructor] of Performing Arts 5678, wouldn't accept payment for this performance because giving back to the residents at Autumn Lake was important to her and her performers. So, when Cruwys insisted on the donation, Lombardi donated two more performances to the Silver Liming Foundation, an organization that gives back to people in need in the community.

When you are a new performing arts studio trying to survive through COVID-19 restrictions -- you learn quickly to pivot and make the most of what you have been dealt. And that's exactly what Lombardi did since opening her performing arts studio in Berkeley Heights in September.

In the past, Lombardi and her Musical Director Courtney Hirschey have done winter shows for Summit Play House -- but because of COVID, they weren't doing anything, said Lombardi. They brainstormed on how they could pull off a winter show -- resulting in the creation of the traveling carolers. They brought the choreographed winter show of six to 12 songs to neighborhoods to share a little (or a lot of) holiday joy.

"I wanted this company to be about giving everybody opportunities to perform," said Lombardi. The students auditioned for their roles -- and performed in 55 shows throughout the community.


Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights earned the U.S. News and World Report "Best Of" rating for 2019/2020 Elite Skilled Nursing Facility for both Short Term Rehabilitation and Long Term Care.  

Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights is located at 35 Cottage Street in Berkeley Heights. To learn more visit their website or call 908.897.1000.