When Joan King decided she wanted to help local seniors celebrate Christmas, her plan was simple and modest, she says.
However, with each passing day since she posted her request for help on Facebook, the project continues to grow, encompassing more people who want to help.
Her idea was to ask about 80 people to stuff a stocking with goodies she could deliver to the residents of Upper Canada Lodge.
She was afraid that Christmas, which can already be a difficult time for some seniors, would be even more so during a pandemic.
“It’s a lonely time for a lot of people, and it will be so challenging to even have visitors. Christmas is supposed to be such a joyful, magical time of year, but it isn’t for everybody,” says King.
She has helped out with a similar project in Niagara Falls, and thought she could replicate it on a small scale in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
When King put out a request for help through social media, she was immediately overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm of the community, and her plan quickly expanded to include all three long-term care homes in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“This community is so incredible,” says King. “I thought I’d get a few people to go to the Dollar Store and get enough items to fill stockings.”
But that wasn’t where it ended.
Betty Houghton Knight quickly reached out to King with an offer to make the stockings. She had some bolts of suitable fabric left over from another project, and with the help of her mother, Marian Houghton, began cutting the fabric. She then had an offer from Dorothy Soo Wiens, who has enlisted some of her church friends to help, including Luanne Kulchar, Eleanor Dick, Kathrin Wiens, Regine Boss, Pat Household and Julia Griffiths. They are all working to ensure 224 stockings are completed and ready to be filled with treats, enough for every senior in long-term care at Upper Canada Lodge, Radiant Care Pleasant Manor Long-Term Care, and Niagara Long Term Care (formerly Chartwell) on Wellington Street.
In addition to help with the stockings, King, in about 24 hours, had enough offers from more Christmas elves to fill them, based on a list of items she received from staff at the homes of what would be best to include.
King also has help lined up to pick up items, help fill the stockings and deliver them to the three homes, including the NOTL Kinsmen and Bethany Mennonite Church.
And if that isn’t enough, Lord Mayor Betty Disero and town staff asked if they could add a Christmas card to every stocking. The Town had held a card-making contest for local children, choosing winning cards to be printed and delivered to seniors in NOTL long-term care homes. When they heard of King’s plan, they asked if their cards could also go in the stockings.
Volunteers with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Palliative Care Service, who were planning on knitting red hearts to deliver to the homes, also reached out, asking if their hearts, along with hand sanitizers, could be included.
Putting everything together in one stocking works for staff at the long-term care homes, who will only have one safe drop-off to handle, which will be done soon enough before Christmas that the stockings, and the items in them, can be considered germ-free.
“This has just snowballed so incredibly,” says King, who was overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the generosity of the community. The organizer of the annual Terry Fox Run has witnessed that before, and is delighted to have so many people get behind her Christmas project.
“It wasn’t going to be a big ask, but all these creative people have stepped up and are doing all these amazing things,” she says. “I’m so grateful so many people wanted to help out.”