Sarah Kimberley, 10, with the gift bags she, her family, and others put together for the residents at Birchwood Retirement Residence. (Mellissa Kimberley)

Sarah Kimberley, 10, with the gift bags she, her family, and others put together for the residents at Birchwood Retirement Residence. (Mellissa Kimberley)

Chilliwack family brings handmade gift bags to 80 isolated seniors for Christmas

‘Maybe if they have a present that they can open, they can feel a bit of love,’ said 11-year-old kid

A little idea that grew into something bigger resulted in 80 seniors at a Chilliwack care home having something to open on Christmas day.

Mellissa Kimberley, along with her family, friends and a class from Mt. Slesse middle school, were all part of the holiday project where presents were delivered to every resident at Birchwood Retirement Residence as a way to bring some joy to their Christmas in isolation.

Kimberley was out shopping with her kids when they spotted some paint-your-own ornaments. They were going to buy 16 and paint them, but what would they do with 16 ornaments?

One of her children suggested they could give them away to seniors at the Birchwood where their grandmother, Linda Zillwood, lives. But there are far more than 16 resident at the care home.

“Why not for everyone?” Kimberley suggested.

More painting? The kids were stoked.

“My 11-year-old has such a tender heart. He really feels for them. He said ‘maybe if they have a present that they can open, they can feel a bit of love,’” Kimberley recalled.

Rick and Andrew Kimberley pack gift bags for the residents at Birchwood Retirement Residence. (Mellissa Kimberley)

Rick and Andrew Kimberley pack gift bags for the residents at Birchwood Retirement Residence. (Mellissa Kimberley)

And so it begun. Kimberley, her husband Rick, and three of their kids – Sarah (10), Andrew (11), and Cameron (15) – all got busy painting the Christmas decorations which were plastic sun catchers and wooden ornaments.

But they didn’t just give the residents hand-painted ornaments, they packed cellophane bags full of other goodies. Each senior also got a pair of warm socks, a little bottle of lotion, cookies and candy.

Kimberley’s friends in B.C. and Alberta pitched in by making donations, and a Grade 6 class at Mt. Slesse middle school made a bunch of Christmas cards.

They packaged them all up and delivered the gift bags on Dec. 20 to allow enough time for them to sit in quarantine before being delivered.

“It was a wonderful way to spend time together as a family, and the staff were blown away when we delivered the gifts,” she said. “It was like a scene out of Miracle on 34th Street where the bags of letters for Santa keep getting carried into the courtroom; they had to call all of the available staff over to accept the trays of gifts.”

Sarah Kimberley, 10, paints ornaments for the residents at Birchwood Retirement Residence. (Mellissa Kimberley)

Sarah Kimberley, 10, paints ornaments for the residents at Birchwood Retirement Residence. (Mellissa Kimberley)

Five days later, staff handed out the gifts on Christmas day to everyone.

Kimberley was quite proud of her children for all the thought and effort they put into the project.

“I’m so blown away by their generosity,” she said. “If I can facilitate that generosity, I feel like I’m doing my job as a parent… and setting them up to be kind and compassionate adults.”

But the kindness didn’t end there. The Birchwood was so impressed with the gesture, they gave the family a card and two guest meal vouchers for the dining area at the care home.

Now Sarah and Andrew will be able to enjoy a dinner with their grandma, just as soon as they’re allowed to, Kimberley said.

RELATED: Adopt-A-Senior Chilliwack matched 550 isolated seniors with generous gift-giving participants

RELATED: Crystal Ridge care home manager grateful for London Drugs Stocking Stuffers for Seniors program


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