CMHA volunteers spread holiday cheer and a message of hope to inpatients at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Program
Christmas is traditionally known for lavish gatherings, gift giving, and spending time with family and friends. However, for those who are not well enough to leave the hospital over the holidays, the festive season can be an especially difficult time of year.
This is well understood by the staff, volunteers and clients of Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex (CMHA), and is what drives them to reach out and spread a little Christmas cheer each holiday season.
Every year, participants of CMHA’s sewing and quilting club spend months creating hand-made Christmas stockings for inpatients who will be receiving care over the holidays in the mental health care program at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute. The stockings are stuffed full of goodies such as mini-sized personal care items, playing cards and puzzles, as well as treats like candy canes, granola bars, and hot chocolate.
This year, with the support of the community and the dedication of CMHA volunteers, 136 stockings were donated.
Materials for the stockings such as fabric and thread as well as the items found inside come from donations in the community. “Our Christmas stocking project has really evolved with the incorporation of community participation,” says Afsaneh Azari, Mental Health Worker at CMHA Middlesex. “We are very impressed with the response we get each year. We’ve even received monetary donations which have really been helpful in filling these stockings to the brim.”
Afsaneh is proud of how heartwarming and genuine the project is. “Many of our volunteers at CMHA are those who have lived this experience and have spent the holidays away from loved ones. They do this for their peers...they want to make sure they don’t feel forgotten.”
As an extra special touch, a festive card is included in each stocking with a heartwarming message of hope from CMHA volunteers: “We want you to know that you are not alone…things do get better.”
Rachel Hudson, Patient Council Facilitator at St. Joseph’s helps to coordinate the delivery of the stockings, which will be distributed to patients on Christmas Day. “We are so thankful for the effort and care that go into the making of these stockings and the thoughtfulness shown to our patients during the Christmas season,” says Rachel. “We are privileged to have strong partnerships and community support…it truly makes a difference to the lives of the people we serve.”