Joan King wants every Niagara-on-the-Lake long-term care resident to have an extra special Christmas again this year.
That's why she organized a program that will make sure everyone living in long-term care in NOTL will receive a Christmas stocking — and some will even be getting giant teddy bears.
King was at the NOTL Community Centre on Friday collecting donations of stockings and cards.
“It must be so lonely when you think of what traditions used to be like when they've had family and big gatherings and dinner and all the grandkids and everybody all around,” King said.
“I thought just the power of one little stocking would just give them a little joy,” she said.
Each stocking contains different fun items, such as crossword puzzles, crayons, sketchbooks, lotions and gloves and mitts.
In total, King said 222 people are living in long-term care in NOTL.
This is the second year King has done the stocking program. She said when she first got the idea, she reached out to the community for help. And then did the same again this year.
“And they responded. They stepped up to the plate and they've dropped off and donated all these stockings,” she said.
“It's so meaningful and it's such a heartwarming thing when you hear stories about people that tell you that 'You know, I just lost my mother a month ago so this cheered me up to be able to do this.' Because they know what it's like in the homes.”
She said she decided to do the stocking gifts again this year, “because the world isn't that much better.”
And she couldn't have had better timing. With the increased pressure of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, many seniors are once again restricted from seeing their families over the holidays.
Linda from St. Davids (who didn't want to give her last name) donated the teddy bears. She dropped off 57 bears bought at places like Toys R Us, Walmart and wherever else she could find them.
She said it was important to her to help King out and that the teddy bears were something that helped her own mother when she was in long-term care.
“My mom had dementia and she was in long-term care for a number of years. Her Teddy was a lifesaver. She would tuck it under the covers and untuck it and hug it and show people if they passed her room. She adored it, so I just wanted to give back to somebody else.”
She said while last year she did stockings, she wanted to put her “budget” toward the teddy bears.
“Last year when I was doing the stockings. I said, 'OK, this is great. But my preference would be to take all the money I want to put toward it and do teddy bears for everybody. I'll keep building my budget for next year so I can actually cover off your whole list.”
She said it was a bit of a challenge to find the bears.
“I discovered that teddy bears are the new toilet paper. And we were going to all the Walmarts in the area and they were all showing us they had like one teddy or two teddies. So at that point we had 25. I was ordering online but then they were calling and messaging and saying that the order is cancelled,” she said, adding that eventually she was able to get more.
She also praised King for making the donation easy.
“When you have somebody who's in charge, who's doing all the hard work, it makes it easy for people like me to say, 'How can I help?'”
King was delighted to be able to offer the teddy bears and said they will be divided among the long-term care facilities.
“It's not how much you give, it's all the love you put into what you're giving,” King said.
Later on Friday afternoon Amika Verwegn stopped by with homemade cards for each stocking, made by her four children, Nova 10, Yuna, 9, Kazuhiro, 4, and Fern, 1. Each card contained a fun holiday-themed joke inside, such as “Where do snowmen go dancing? At a snow ball.”