Since March, the only way St. Thomas More Collegiate student Annette Yu and her family have been able to visit her grandmother is by waving through the window of a care home in Burnaby.
After waving, dancing, and blowing bubbles for her at these “window visits” for several months, Yu realized two things: many other residents noticed and waved to them; and too few of those residents had visitors of their own.
“Living in quarantine is already a task when done for two weeks, but the seniors have been quarantined away from visitors since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Yu. “As I once heard in a movie, ‘it is a culture’s duty to take care of its elderly,’ and that is what I want to do.”
So Yu came up with a plan to sprinkle some Christmas cheer in her grandmother’s care home. Yu and 10 of her classmates made more than 140 Christmas ornaments, accompanied by small gifts of warm socks, hand lotion, activity books, puzzles, and stuffed toys to be delivered to all 128 residents. The gifts were funded by donations from family, friends, and her mom’s Bible study group.
“This Christmas, as many cannot go to see their family, my family and I thought it vital to support those in our community who are unable to celebrate as they usually would. These seniors are most affected as they are secluded from their family and the outside world.”
Many others are also finding creative ways to spread joy during the holidays in a physically-distanced way. The Vancouver branch of Focolare hosted an online Christmas gathering for its members Dec. 12. Before the virtual gathering, they were encouraged to purchase toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, combs, soap, deodorant, wipes, gloves, socks, and tuques for the homeless in the Downtown Eastside.
They wrapped the supplies together during the virtual Christmas gathering and received directions for a curbside drop-off Dec. 19, when the gifts would be distributed by The Giving Truck and The Door is Open.
At St. Matthew’s Parish, which usually hosts 600-700 people at an annual Christmas concert in support of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, plans changed when the traditional event was not possible.
Instead, the parish decided to continue supporting the charity by hosting an online benefit concert Dec. 19. The concert will feature talent from parish choirs and the elementary school, led by music minister and emcee Peter Luongo.
The event will be streamed from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and conclude with a live carol singalong.
Also in support of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, St. Pius X Elementary students are collecting food donations. The Grade 2 class delivered six boxes of non-perishables, while the other grades are preparing to do the same.
“They were filled with joy to be able to give this food to the St. Vincent De Paul Society to distribute to the community as they are learning to practice ‘we before me,’” said president Robin Newton. “The church never stops.”
Students at Our Lady of Good Counsel Elementary in Surrey are also collecting goods for donation this season in support of the Surrey Food Bank, Fill the Crib, and Agape Street Ministry.
Meanwhile, volunteer coordinator Angela Veters of the archdiocese’s prison ministry said she has received 2,100 Christmas cards from nearly every Catholic elementary school in the Lower Mainland.
The cards are handmade and written for those who will be incarcerated or facing poverty this Christmas and will be distributed by prison chaplains and two street ministries, Agape and Good Shepherd.
St. James and St. Ann’s Elementary students in Abbotsford with Christmas cards made for the archdiocese’s prison ministry.
And at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary in Vancouver no one can tell Tate Parker he’s too young to help the poor. The Grade 5 student has been running an annual sleeping bag collection for the last six years, giving away about 120 bags a year to people living on the streets.
His initiative, which started in Victoria, has earned him a letter of praise from the Vatican.
So far this year Parker has 70 sleeping bags. He plans to reach 120 and give them all to the Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter on Christmas Eve.