Chana Bennett assists with activities at Jax Health and Rehab
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Aug 27, 2013 | 1131 views |  0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chana Bennett found her calling 12 years ago when she became assistant activities director at Jacksonville Health and Rehab.

“I love to make the residents smile,” she said. “I love to be able to be a warm spot in their day. I’ve had quite a few of them say that they’d love to be as happy as I am. I dance up and down the hall and try to sit in their laps and give them a kiss. Most of them just look at me and laugh. They think I’m crazy.”

Chana said part of her job involves arranging the activities calendar to keep the residents busy and involved with others. She visits those who can’t or won’t leave their rooms.

“We try to keep them from being socially isolated,” she said. “We plan parties and activities for them. Their favorite activity is probably bingo.”

One activity is bike night, when bikers bring their motorcycles for the residents to see.

“They sit out on the porch and look at the bikes,” said Chana. “We have hot wings. The bikers really interact with the residents. We’ve had wedding extravaganzas where we’ve had members of the staff and volunteers model their wedding dresses. We even serve wedding cake.”

Chana said she treats the residents the way she’d want to be treated when she gets older.

Her husband of 14 years, Aranda Gunn, works at Superior Car Dealership in Anniston. She has two children. Antonio Bennett, 23, lives in Huntsville. Chanal Russell, 22, lives in Lenlock and has a daughter, Yania, 2.

“I realize now why they call them grand,” said Chana. “They have a special places in our hearts and our lives.”

Chana is a 1988 graduate of Anniston High School. She attended New World Business College. As a member of Rocky Mount Baptist Church in Oxford, she sings in the choir and has served as chairperson of the Black History Month program for the past four years.

A few years ago a friend and co-worker started doing flower arrangements and soon Chana was hooked.

“I’ve been doing them ever since,” she said. “I decorate for my church when we have special occasions, and I’ve decorated for several weddings.”

She also sells Mary Kay beauty products.

Chana’s mother, who is a cook by trade, taught her to cook. Chana was born in Hammond, La., and that’s probably where she acquired her taste for spicy Cajan food. Her mother and step-father, Eudora and Johnny Russell, live in Weaver. Her father, Ernest Bennett, lives in Amite, La.

She lived in Jacksonville 10 years and now resides near Weaver.

Chana cooks dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals at Jacksonville Health and Rehab when families are invited to eat with the residents.

Beef and Corn Casserole, Lemon Lush, Chana’s Leftover Turkey Tetro and Twinkie Delight are some of Chana’s recipes that she prepares for her family.

Contact Margaret at


Beef and Corn Casserole

1 lb. ground beef
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
1 pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 medium onion, diced
1 can of biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef, drain, and saute with onion until onions are tender. Remove from heat. Mix with corn, soup and cream cheese. Pour into 9x13 inch dish. Layer biscuits over mixture. Let bake until biscuits are golden brown. Serve by placing biscuit bottom up. Layer mixture over biscuits.

Lemon Lush

1 c. flour
1 stick butter
1 c nuts, chopped
8 oz. pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
8 oz. whipped topping
2 pkg. instant lemon pudding
3 c. milk

First layer: Mix together flour, margarine and ½ c. nuts. Work together as you do pie crust. Press into a 9x13 inch pan and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool.

Second layer: Mix together softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, 1 c. whipped topping. Fold in and chill for 15 minutes. Reserve the rest of the whipped topping.

Third layer: Whip instant pudding with milk.

Spread cream cheese mixture over first layer. Then spread instant pudding over cream cheese mixture. Spread reserved whipped topping over pudding and top with ½ c. nuts.

Chana's Leftover Turkey Tetro

(Leftover turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas)

1 medium onion, diced
1 t. seasoning salt
1 t. poultry seasoning
16 oz. box spaghetti
3 cans cream of chicken soup
16 oz. pkg. American cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut turkey off bone and cut into small pieces. Saute turkey with onions, seasoning salt and poultry seasoning. Let saute until onions are tender. Put spaghetti on to boil as instructed by package. Once spaghetti and turkey are done, combine together (do not drain spaghetti) with soup in 13x9 in casserole dish. Layer cheese on top of mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and golden brown.

Twinkie Delight

1 box Twinkies
1 lg. pkg. Jello instant vanilla pudding
1 pkg. frozen strawberries or fresh strawberries
1 reg. Cool Whip
1 can Eagle Brand milk
2 cups milk

Cut Twinkies in half and place cream side up in a 13x9 inch dish. Mix pudding with milk. Then combine Cool Whip, pudding mixture and Eagle Brand milk. Pour mixture over Twinkies and over with strawberries. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
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Chana Bennett assists with activities at Jax Health and Rehab by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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