Tree of Christmas Giving returns to Rainycrest

Megan Walchuk

Sometimes the smallest gestures carry the biggest meaning.

That was the thought as the staff at Rainycrest long-term care home set up their Tree of Christmas Giving. It’s laden with ornaments – each one representing a resident in the home, in need of Christmas cheer. Local residents can pick out an ornament, which carries some basic information about a resident – including gender, and clothing size – shop for a gift, then return it to the home, to brighten the holidays for their chosen recipient. Now in its second year, the tree has quickly become a new tradition for the community, according to Kathryn Pierroz, Communication Coordinator for Riverside. Not just individuals joined in – workplaces, families, organizations and classrooms have had fun getting together to adopt the seniors.

“We had great success last year with our Tree of Christmas Giving, with an outpouring of generosity from the community, “ she said. “The team at Rainycrest couldn’t keep ornaments on the tree!”

This year, with COVID restrictions and the isolation they have brought, the tree has taken on a special meaning for residents.

“Not all of our residents have loved ones who live in the area and COVID travel and visitor restrictions have placed added limitations on seeing their family and friends during the holiday season,” said Pierroz. “In some cases residents don’t have any living relatives or friends. This initiative aims to bring some comfort through a thoughtful gift that they might not otherwise receive.”

To make the tree a reality this year, staff have carefully navigated safety protocols. The tree is located in the front vestibule at Rainycrest, which is secured from the main entrance of the building. Community members may enter the vestibule between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., without entering the home. Masks are required and social distancing and hand hygiene are strongly encouraged.

The gifts can be returned in an unsealed gift bag or unwrapped, with the chosen tag attached, no later than 4 p.m. December 15. The gift will be quarantined for 24 hours prior to entering the home.
From there, the fun begins – the bags are sorted, and each wing receives a visit from Santa himself on Christmas Eve, with the donated gifts in tow.

“The Joy is definitely infectious and spreads throughout the home with this program. We look forward to another great year; the ornaments are already flying off the tree,” said Heather Hudson, Rainycrest Activation Coordinator. “The goal is to ensure everyone receives a Christmas gift and maintains some normalcy during this festive time. It’s wonderful to involve the community.”

Some Suggestions for gifts include: rubber soled slippers; shawls or easy fitting sweaters, Special Adaptive Clothing with open backed tops and bottoms (overall snaps and Velcro are more user friendly for clothing); electric shavers; woodworking kits; music related items; small CD players; concert DVDs; Audio books; Adult colouring books; Magazines-large print; Hair accessories such as combs and brushes; small new plush stuffed animals and battery operated candles.
Please refrain from items with scents as they are a scent free home; slippers and socks without grips; breakable or sharp items, or live plants.
“’The tree brings the spirit of giving into our community at the home,” said Tara Morelli, Administrator Rainycrest. “It offers us an opportunity to think of others and the gifts we give can be thoughtful, needed and helpful to so many residents at Rainycrest. We know one thing it does for sure, your generosity will bring warmth, happiness and joy to our residents this season.”