It all began with an idea at a Sunday morning coffee hour chat.
A few members of Zion Philipsburg Lutheran Church’s worship and music committee were discussing ways to reach out to lonely seniors in area retirement and long-term care homes during the second pandemic lockdown of 2021 last spring.
Given the need to change how congregations could still connect with each other, even in lockdown, required thinking outside of the box.
A simple card could let folks know that people were thinking about them, praying for them and sending their love, according to Pastor Leanne Darlington, Zion’s pastor.
“In reaching out to our members in long-term care by phone, I could hear and feel the loneliness in their voices. They needed to know that they have not been forgotten in all that was going on in our world, ” Darlington said.
And so the women set to work.
Facebook posts on the Wilmot Community page and the church’s Facebook page, as well as a church email, invited people to start by making cards for the residents of Nithview Home in New Hamburg, where some of the church’s members live.
Two online card-making evenings were held where the public was invited to join in learning how to make pop-up cards.
And the cards and even hand-drawn artwork by children started rolling in.
Generous donations were left in a porch drop-off box at the New Hamburg home of Zion member Susan Mills, as well as the storage box at the church – some 13 kilometres west of Waterloo – which was set up so members could pick up monthly newsletters and copies of sermons when the pandemic first hit.
A prayer for the residents to pray each day speaking of God’s love and presence in times of struggle, written by Darlington, was included in each card, along with words of hope and inspiration written by church and community members.
The prayer read:
“A prayer for you from your friends at Zion Lutheran Church Philipsburg.
Loving and Gracious God.
You are the Good Shepherd who cares for us day and night.
These pandemic times have been lonely and long.
We miss seeing our families and friends.
But in you O God, we know that we are never alone.
Help us to feel your presence and love in our hearts and keep us in your tender care.
An article on the project was published in the May 5 edition of The Wilmot Post, encouraging further donations from the community. The group’s initial goal of 180 cards for Nithview Retirement Home was easily surpassed and the project was extended to provide cards to other area nursing homes in Tavistock, Stratford, Listowel and Mitchell.
Other recipients included migrant workers at Pfenning’s Organic Farm in New Hamburg, whose hard work each season to provide food and students in the Philipsburg congregation who’d finished a difficult year of online learning due to the pandemic.
A Waterloo Vacation Bible School in Waterloo also featured the Philipsburg church’s pop-up card instructions in its week of online studies in the summer.
This is a summary of the 586 cards that were distributed by July 2021:
- 80 cards for Nithview retirement residents
- 100 cards for Nithview Long Term Care residents
- 70 cards for the residents of The Maples in Tavistock
- 85 cards for the residents of Greenwood Court apartments in Stratford
- 48 cards for the residents of Ritz Lutheran Villa in Mitchell
- 48 cards for the residents of Caressant Care in Listowel
- 28 cards for the youth at Zion Philipsburg
- 80 cards of encouragement to House of Friendship’s Charles Street Shelter, after a fire at Waterloo Inn where they were living.
Since then, members of Zion have continued their card-making efforts, sending some 130 Christmas cards to all long-term residents of Nithview Home in New Hamburg.
Another 125 were sent to Clair Hills Retirement Home in Waterloo, thanks to the efforts of fellow card makers Donna and Vivian Hodgin and their neighbour Nancy Crewson of Baden. The cards were set on each resident’s Christmas dinner plate when they sat down for their evening meal.
Another 100 cards were delivered to residents in long-term care in Riverbend Place in Cambridge. And 90 cards of Christmas cheer were sent to Greenwood Court in Stratford. That’s an additional 445 cards. Nearly 1,000 cards weresent out this past year.
The church is continuing to collect used calendars and greeting cards from the community for their next batch of card deliveries.
The Philipsburg card-makers encourage other churches – big or small – to take up similar efforts, saying that it is a great way to reach out to their communities and beyond, upcycle in the process and make complete strangers feel loved.
Mills summed it all up by thanking the community for its efforts.
“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in this project by making homemade cards filled with messages of hope, caring and love, as well as those who donated cards and card supplies, coloured pages for the fronts of cards, attached prayers to the cards, delivered cards, and everyone who supported this project in any way,” she said. “Your efforts have made a positive impact in our community. Well done!“