INSPIRATIONAL – Olivia Everitt-England of Red Deer is surrounded by donations to the Gifts for Grandparents program spearheaded by Family Services of Central Alberta. Olivia helped inspire many people to generously support the program this year.

Making Christmas brighter for local seniors

  • Dec. 19, 2012 4:15 p.m.

A young Red Deer girl has been instrumental in drumming up tremendous support for the ‘Gifts for Grandparents’ campaign.

It was several weeks back that seven-year-old Olivia Everitt-England was inspired to lend a hand to the annual campaign, organized by Family Services of Central Alberta and the Alberta Generations Project.

“I wanted to do this because I like to help the community,” says Olivia. “I thought it would be a nice idea to help the people that don’t always get to see their families.”

Olivia learned of the Gifts for Grandparents campaign several weeks ago, and it struck a chord with her. “I thought it was a really good idea. I think all these gifts will make their Christmases really nice. It makes me feel really happy.”

Olivia, who is a member of the Brownies, wrote a letter explaining that this Christmas she couldn’t be with her own grandparents. She also wrote that there are lots of grandparents who could be facing Christmas on their own.

“I think everyone should receive a gift,” she wrote, adding she was volunteering for Gifts for Grandparents, and would be collecting items for gift bags to be delivered prior to Christmas. “Thank you for helping me to spread joy to the world.”

That letter went to the folks in her neighbourhood, her teachers and with her parents to their workplaces, and word spread from there.

“We were looking for a charity we could be involved with,” explains Olivia’s mom, Vicki Everitt-England. “She decided that this was the one she wanted to be a part of because she can’t be with her grandparents this year.

“She had written that letter, and was sad they (her grandparents) couldn’t be with her. But she then thought she would help some other grandparents that couldn’t be with their families.”

Olivia’s message touched a lot of hearts. “Her dad works at Hi-Way 9, and there’s a lady named Val there who kind of took it upon herself to pass it on to other depots around Alberta. So it kind of went a little bit viral from there,” she adds with a laugh.

Boxes of donations from the various offices were shipped to Red Deer, not to mention the outpouring from people here in the City and surrounding area.

“She’s very sensitive. She’s an old soul – has been forever,” says a very proud Vicki.

“Her teacher had read her a story about filling buckets. After her first delivery, I asked her how she felt. She said ‘I feel like my bucket is overflowing. When you do kind things, it not only fills your bucket, but those of the people around you. When you do negative things, it empties your bucket as well as everyone else’s’.

“She sees the world in a different way.”

For many, the Christmas season includes family get-togethers and lots of opportunities to reconnect with old friends as well. But for some, including some local seniors, it’s a relatively ‘solitary’ time of year. That’s something Family Services of Central Alberta and the Alberta Generations Project has been working to change through the Gifts for Grandparents program – now in its fifth year.

Dawna Morey, project coordinator of the Alberta Generations Project, said that via a number of Family Services support initiatives, it became clear many seniors live in isolation. A number of local organizations, including the Piper Creek Foundation, Family Services of Central Alberta and the Golden Circle helped to identify seniors in the community who would benefit from the program.

Last year, 275 bags packed with all kinds of items were delivered to local seniors at Christmastime.

The goal this year was to fill 350 bags, said Morey. So far, organizers have been able to fill well over 400. They contain everything from slippers, women’s socks, pajamas and toiletry items for men and women to prepackaged cookies, diabetic candy, gift cards and coffee shops. Businesses, schools, organizations and individuals have really come onboard to help as well.

“The community has embraced it,” she said, noting other nearby communities have been organizing similar initiatives. “If we can share our stories and our tools on how other communities can do this, then our seniors are going to be well-served in Central Alberta.”

As for Olivia’s contribution, Morey said it’s inspirational to see a youngster be so dedicated to helping an older generation. “We talk about the inter-generational connection and the value of sharing love across our communities. I think it’s phenomenal,” she said. “She’s just such a sweet little angel.”

For more information about Gifts for Grandparents, call 403-343-6400 or 403-348-6547.

editor@reddeerexpress.com

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