The young are taking care of the old this Christmas in Aldergrove; hundreds of students are busy penning letters for seniors to help brighten their holiday.
Organized by resident Karen Long, local schools have been given names and envelopes so students are able to write personalized Christmas cards that will be dispersed to seniors throughout the coming weeks.
Brian Hunter, a teacher at Aldergrove Community Secondary School (ACSS), said he brought the project to his classroom in order to spread a little joy to seniors in the community.
“Some seniors don’t have a family and some don’t get visited as often as they should,” Hunter said, adding that he felt it was important and nice that what’s being done stays within and helps the community of Aldergrove.
“It’s a nice positive thing,” Hunter said. “I think people are hearing about all the bad things that are happening in schools right now, but there is a lot of good things happening too.”
Hunter explained that Long provided names of residents so that students could personalize their letters.
“The kids can introduce themselves this way and talk about what they want for Christmas,” he said. “I lead my grade eight group with a bit of a script, but they have done it to their best of their abilities and we’re definitely invested and wanting to share.”
The letters will be going to multiple establishments and homes around Aldergrove including Jackman Manor and Lions Grove.
“Elementary schools had already done something like it in the past years,” Hunter noted.
One such school is Betty Gilbert Middle School; a program to make personalized Christmas cards for the residents of Jackman Manor has been facilitated through their Advisory program called Raptor Rapport for the past three years.
Kristine Waddell, an advisory program leader at Betty Gilbert, said advisory program goals include character development and building a positive view of school and community.
“Our Advisory program is built upon the foundation of our Raptor Traits and aims to help students find an identity and connection within a group and community,” Waddell explained. “Two of our Raptor Traits at Betty Gilbert are kindness and empathy. We want to help our students understand the importance of thinking of others and realize the positive impact their actions can have.”
For the past two years, Waddell said the school has taken a group of students to personally deliver the Christmas cards.
“The interactions between the residents and our students was wonderful to witness and the experiences were truly reciprocal,” she noted, a touching aspect that COVID-19 has unfortunately cancelled.
“We have created a lovely connection between our school and Jackman Manor and even though our visit cannot take place this year, we want the residents and staff to know we are thinking of them throughout this holiday season,” Waddell added. “Our students were very happy to create these Christmas cards and they hope this small gesture will bring a smile to these very important members of our Aldergrove community.”
Hunter said that ACSS completed roughly 200 letters and even friends of his have reached out to help write more.
“Ours are going to the Aldergrove Legion. A lot of the seniors are former military or RCMP members – residents who served,” Hunter said.
Military not Forgotten
Lacey Warrington, a youth care worker with ACSS helped organize another component to the letter writing project by sending some of the letters to Canadian military members who are stationed overseas for the holidays.
The project hits close to home; her two sons, who both graduated form ACSS last year, joined the military.
“Many military members – ones that are even based around Canada don’t get to come home this year,” Warrington explained, sharing that she didn’t even know if her boys would be home for the holidays.
Through a national program called Write to the Troops, people can send letters to military personnel.
“They all get sent to Bellville, Ontario – postage is free to send to that address – and then military planes get filled full and sent overseas,” Warrington explained.
She said students and teachers, even friends that she reached out to on Facebook contributed and wrote a letter – Warrington ended up with more than 100 to send.
A student in Hunter’s careers class was one such participant who chose to wrote to a military member overseas.
“One student connected with them because they want to serve and have family members who have served,” Hunter noted.
Warrington said the deadline to send physical letters has now passed, but people can still send messages digitally on Facebook.
“My boys have received letters and gifts from strangers and they said to know that people are thinking about them and our military and recognizing the sacrifices they make means so much to them,” Warrington added.
She said she is grateful for the fact that they will be coming home this year to spend Christmas in Aldergrove. Warrington hopes to expand the program and get all Aldergrove schools involved next year
More than 650 letters were written and handed over to Long by Friday, Dec. 11.
She will now disperse throughout the community – dropping some off directly to seniors lodges and some sent through mail.
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