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Local radio personality crafts COVID-19 safe 'hugging booth' for senior-living facility

Posted at 7:41 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 21:51:30-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A local radio personality took a different kind of request: to help seniors who haven’t been able to hug their loved ones.

Solstice Senior Living Executive Director Michelle Kelm said when she saw a “hugging booth” out in Dallas on Facebook, she immediately knew C-101 host Rex Gabriel would be able to do an even better job of creating one.

Although he doesn’t consider him a professional-level carpenter, Gabriel didn’t hesitate to try and recreate it.

“That’s just something I couldn’t say ‘no’ to,” he said. “The opportunity to have people who haven’t been able to hold each other for months and months — for some reason — I just thought of my grandmother and it choked me up. It hit me right in the heart, and I immediately started building.”

Gabriel understands how COVID-19 can affect people. He said when his fiancée’s daughter contracted the virus, something as simple as dropping off groceries for her was difficult.

“When we drove away, the first thing she said was, ‘I just wish I could hug her’ — instead of leaving those grocery bags 30 yards away and being fearful of that person," he said.

Gabriel completed the project in about 12 hours. He covered the expenses, a little over $300, out of his own pocket.

"Being able to help a family get a hug when they haven't had that hug in month and months just means the world to me,” he said. “Going to a senior-living facility and having people making that contact — I think its very important"

As a result, Solstice Senior Living has a “Hugs For Hope” event on Saturday. It’s set to run from 2-5 p.m.

"It's extremely uplifting to have somebody want to do that and want to take on not only the project — but the cost — just to help our seniors,” Kelm said. ”It offers, hope, happiness and just a lot of love to our residents."

Gabriel and Kelm hope other senior facilities reach out to them in order to take advantage of the booth after Saturday.