Big-hearted volunteers gathered for a mega Christmas gift wrapping session to bring festive cheer to people living on their own this holiday.
More than a dozen tenants of Cartrefi Conwy housing association got together at Chester Avenue community centre in Kinmel Bay to package up gifts donated by Cartrefi Conwy staff and people throughout the region.
The amateur parcel force swiftly answered a call for help put out by Cartrefi Conwy when it decided to get 100 per cent behind the annual gift-giving charity set up by the Home Instead care service.
This is the third year that Home Instead has run a project to provide Christmas presents for isolated elderly community members, the hospitalised and pensioners living on their own during the festive period.
Lucie Williams, Home Instead community relations manager, said: “It’s bigger than ever. I’ve been amazed at how much help we’ve had this year. We’ve already had 400 gifts donated and we’ve only just started the 2017 campaign. There are lots more to be picked up yet and they all need wrapping up. We can’t thank the Cartrefi Conwy residents enough for stepping in to help out.”
Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s older persons engagement officer, asked the team at Chester Avenue if they would be willing to help out and she wasn’t surprised when so many of them said yes.
She said: “They are a fantastic bunch of people, always up for anything that helps their local community and this cause is one of the best.
“Christmas can be a very emotional time of year for elderly people who are on their own, they can feel isolated and lonely. But this scheme really brings them into the community and lets them know their neighbours are thinking of them and looking out for them. That’s why Cartrefi Conwy decided to rally behind it.”
It was not just the Cartrefi Conwy tenants who gave it their all, but Cartrefi Conwy staff were also spurred into action with many of them impulsively buying gifts to donate to the cause.
Nerys said: “My car was packed to the roof with boxes full of presents our staff donated. They ranged from foodstuffs, chocolates and wine to toileteries, gloves, hats, jigsaws and games.
“In addition we were really touched to receive a selection of handmade Christmas cards specially created by pupils of St Gerard’s primary school in Bangor to give out with the presents.
“We even had a wrapping up challenge in work with the team completing 40 gifts in 40 minutes. The enthusiasm to help this charity is riding high right across in all our local neighbourhoods.”
Lucie agreed that this year’s present donation project has been more popular than ever.
She said: “We started the campaign three years ago and in the first year we had 200 gifts donated. Last year that number soared to more than 700 and this year we are looking well on course to beat that total, if not double it!
“In our first year we had to go out knocking on doors appealing for donations, but this year people are coming to us. There has been a real clamour to support the project from individuals and from fantastic organisations like Cartrefi Conwy.
“We’ve also been supported by Denbigh’s Community First, Age Connects, the Alzheimers Society, Red Cross, Abergele Golf Club, Kinmel Bay library, St David’s Church, the Nova Centre, Prestatyn, North Wales Fire Service and Ty Llewelyn Community Centre, Llandudno, among many others too numerous to name. We thank them all.
“It’s so rewarding to see this sort of response and to see the pleasure on people’s faces when the gifts are eventually delivered. We have a significantly large elderly generation in this region, many of whom are at a stage of their lives where they now reside alone. This is our way of of letting them know they are not forgotten and that they are as valued members of the community as ever.”
Volunteer wrapper, Elaine Fox, said she had no hesitation rallying to the call for help:
“Oh we have some great times at the community centre here. Many of us have been Cartrefi Conwy tenants for a number of years and we regularly meet up for social and leisure activities. As part of that we also try to do our bit for local charities along the way through fundraising raffles, selling crafts we’ve made, cake stalls and coffee mornings, that sort of thing. So when Nerys asked us to help with this festive wrapping it was right up our street.”
Community centre team member Jo O’Keeffe, added that there was no shortage of willing volunteers.
She said: “Christmas really is in the air in our community. We’ve recently laid on a festive four course lunch for local pensioners and a bunch of our members take it in turns over the holiday season to check on residents who are living on their own. So when this idea was put to us it came as second nature. It is a wonderful cause which deserves all the support we can give.”
Norma Roberts has lived round the corner from the community centre for 40 years and been a dedicated volunteer most of that time. She delighted in wrapping up packets of biscuits, 1,000 piece jigsaws and scarves and gloves.
“It’s a great way to get in the mood for Christmas and help our friends and neighbours too,” she said.