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Atmore McDonald's employees spread Christmas cheer to faithful customer

By By Adam Prestridge
The crew at Atmore McDonald's is not only serving up Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and Happy Meals this holiday season.
They are also serving up Christmas cheer.
Last week, several members of the fast food chain's staff volunteered to decorate 81-year-old Atmore resident Vallie Andrews' home with lights after general manager Claudio Santander learned that the McDonald's regular was unable to this Christmas.
"She is one of our regular customers, she comes in every morning," Santander said. "I always like to greet my customers and talk to them a little bit and we started talking about the Christmas spirit. We started talking about putting up Christmas lights and she stated that she wasn't going to put hers up this year because she was unable to by herself. I told her that I would do it for her. Then some of my employees volunteered to help me do it, while we were decorating McDonald's."
So Santander and his elves held true to their word and strung lights from Andrews' East Horner Street home, hung two wreaths above the front door and decorated her front yard with little fiber optic Christmas trees.
"I enjoyed them coming out and helping," Andrews said from her booth inside the Golden Arches Friday morning. "Unfortunately, they weren't able to finish, I didn't have enough extensions cords. It also got dark on us. I wouldn't have got it done if he (Santander) wouldn't have brought the children to help. I think it was a wonderful thing for him to bring the young people to my home. I thought they did a real good job and the children were real cooperative."
Santander said he decided to give Andrews the gift of lights to help instill the true meaning of Christmas into his children, Claudio Jr. and Adriana, and the employees who helped.
"We forget a lot of times what Christmas is all about," he said. "It's about giving and doing things for others. We're so worried about what we're going to get for Christmas or what we are going to do. Christmas is a time to be joyful to others and that's why we all decided to help her."
As for the help he received on the project, Santander was both proud and thankful.
"I'm very happy that I have employees that are willing to help and give back," Santander said. "They were a big help. Everything went well. We still have a few finishing touches, but they will be done this weekend."
Andrews, a widow for more than 20 years, has lived in Atmore for 54 years. She is currently a caretaker for 91-year-old Rease Seales, who is a native of Walnut Hill, Fla.
She said Seales was touched by the generosity shown by the McDonald's staff.
"It was such a blessing," she said. "We really do appreciate it. He (Seales) was real proud of it. I would have never got it done by myself and he agreed. I would have never tried."
Not only is McDonald's a place for Andrews and Seales to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a Egg McMuffin; it is good exercise for the two seniors. In fact, they visit on doctor's orders.
"We come every morning and this is his therapy," Andrews said. "The doctor recommended I get him out and keep him moving."
Santander best described Andrews as a "Christian woman." Although this Christmas gift did not cost much money, the thoughtfulness of the McDonald's crew and the time she spent with them will not only be one of many Christmas memories she will remember, but one of the first the young workers will.
"You can't imagine how much help it is," she said. "It was a blessing."
It just goes to show you that Angels are among us. Even at McDonald's.