When Volunteer Services was asked to find a way to spread some cheer over the holidays, they brainstormed some of their own favourite Christmas memories. “We all reminisced about circling the toys we wanted in the Sears Wish Book,” says Tracy Laluk, Manager of Volunteer Services. “We thought to ourselves, ‘Well, why don’t we create a wish book of our own so people can shop for something special from home?’”
And so it came to pass that 34 gift basket themes were dreamt up, with names such as “Calories Smalories,” “80s Totally Tubular” and “The Superhero in All of Us.” The plan was to have people supported through Health & Transition Services select the gift that they’d most like to receive. The reaction was so enthusiastic that the program grew to include 334 basket orders for those supported by St.Amant, and another 52 smaller baskets for people receiving services through Sara Riel.
While those who will be receiving baskets are excited for their gifts, it turns out that it’s just as good to give as to receive. “Helping run this project has helped my Grinchy heart grow three sizes,” admits Sarah Van Mackelberg, Administrative Assistant with Volunteer Services. “We’ve had a good laugh about it but I really wasn’t in the spirit this year. The feedback we’ve gotten from the people we support and staff has been so uplifting that it’s really turned things around for me.”
What’s been the most popular gift package request? “Winter Wonderland”, with over 30 residents asking for the bundle that includes candy, mittens, hot chocolate and some activities to stay cozy and warm inside, like colouring books and crafts. “Spa-tacular” comes in at a close second with everything one would need to pamper themselves at home.
The project, funded by the St.Amant Foundation, is bringing some magic to the season, but is also creating memories for everyone involved. “This has been a reminder of what we can do as a team,” says Laluk. “People we support have been reaching out to us individually to thank us and tell us how excited they are. We know we’re all going to look back on this in the future and be really proud of what we were able to accomplish. Most of all, we’ll remember how this made us feel.”