Health Ministry’s ‘Giving Tree Outreach Project’ shared the Christmas spirit

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The Cypress-based St. Irenaeus Church Health Care Ministry asked for the help of its church members and the students of St. Irenaeus School to assist them for their annual Giving Tree Outreach Project that included a stop in Buena Park-to share the Christmas spirit with residents of five local care centers and homebound parishioners during the Advent season. Starting in late November, students of St. Irenaeus School decorated over 400 brown bags in festive Christmas colors and decorations for the Giving Tree Outreach Project.

The Cypress-based St. Irenaeus Church Health Care Ministry asked for the help of its church members and the students of St. Irenaeus School to assist them for their annual Giving Tree Outreach Project that included a stop in Buena Park-to share the Christmas spirit with residents of five local care centers and homebound parishioners during the Advent season. Starting in late November, students of St. Irenaeus School decorated over 400 brown bags in festive Christmas colors and decorations for the Giving Tree Outreach Project. Parishioners were then offered the opportunity to participate in the project by filling the decorated bags with items from a suggested list of gifts for the men and women residents of the care center. Parishioners were also invited to attend the Christmas parties where the gift bags would be presented and join in singing Christmas carols and other Christmas songs with health care ministers and St. Irenaeus Church adult choir members. They could also choose to be part of Santa’s elves and help Santa deliver presents to everyone. St. Irenaeus parishioners responded generously and filled all of the decorated bags so that the baptistery at St. Irenaeus Church was overflowing with gifts by Dec. 13. Bags were organized by sections for men, women and a separate section for lap blankets for those who were bedridden. During the week of Dec. 14-18, 2015, teams of Health Care Ministry members helped Santa to deliver the gift bags to Knott Avenue Manor and Knott Avenue Care Centers in Buena Park, Karlton Care Center and Anaheim Terrace Care Center in Anaheim, and Sunrise Assisted Living in La Palma. Each of the Christmas parties was uniquely different with different groups of people coming to sing Christmas carols and help Santa to deliver the gift bags. However, the faces of the residents of all the care centers showed how much they all enjoyed receiving their gifts and hearing the Christmas songs. Some residents even joined in singing familiar Christmas songs and carols. The Christmas parties at two of the care centers had an abundance of young people and adult parishioners participating. At Knott Avenue Residential Manor, Boy Scout Troop 660 came with their leader, Cindy Kissell, and their parents for the first time. The scouts came dressed in uniform or as elves and sang Christmas songs enthusiastically. The residents enjoyed seeing and hearing the young people and some residents joined in singing the songs. One resident said, “Come more often!” It was wonderful to see parents with the scouts, especially the fathers who could come at night! This was the only party that was held in the evening. At Sunrise La Palma, twenty- two students from Mrs. Cathy Corkhill’s sixth grade class at St. Irenaeus School came with bags filled with gifts. They brought lap blankets that they made themselves and included them in their beautifully decorated bags. They also came prepared to sing “Mele Kalikimaka” with their own improvised hand motions. They were accompanied by a few of their classmates playing their ukuleles and Adult Choir members. The students joined in singing many other favorite Christmas songs such as “Silent Night,” “Frosty,” “Jingle Bells, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” etc. They joyously sang songs as they went from room to room delivering gift bags and ended by happily singing the “Twelve Days of Christmas” by themselves. Grace Francis, the Health Care Ministry’s Coordinator for the Care Centers, was overjoyed to see so many students accompanied by their teacher and their parents who drove them to Sunrise after school. They all joined adult choir members and other parishioners who came to sing songs and help deliver the gifts at Sunrise La Palma. Mrs. Francis is one person who attended all five of the Christmas parties at the care centers. She was told by workers at all the Care Centers that everyone was delighted with the gifts they received this year. Lap blankets were the favorite of all the gifts that they received.Mrs. Francis said that she appreciated all those who helped, especially the people who volunteered as Santas. The Santas included her grandson Troy Kissell, her husband Ken Francis, Tom Nagle and Vickie Larson. Larson was Santa at two of the parties and showed her Christmas Spirit by singing and lovingly hugging people as she presented their gift bags to them. Mrs. Francis said that she was so grateful for the generosity of all the parishioners of St. Irenaeus who made it possible to bring gifts to the residents of the care centers. She said that gift bags were delivered later to parishioners who were homebound. The Giving Tree Project for 2015 came to an end on Dec. 18, when residents of all five care centers had received their gifts and had their parties. But evangelization at the care centers continues each week. People who would like to join health care ministry members and help bring the good news of Christ to residents of the care centers can contact Grace Walters at 714-742-9080 or Sr. Rita O’Connell at 714-826-9760.

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