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Burnaby students, seniors share holiday cheer – from a distance

Local schools are finding ways to brighten the lives of seniors who may be isolated during the festive season because of COVID-19
Gilmore Community School students in festive garb paraded past seniors at Seton Villa Tuesday during a jingle bell walk designed to spread holiday cheer. Photo by Maria Perez

Burnaby seniors isolated by COVID-19 this winter are getting some holiday cheer, thanks to kids at local elementary schools.

At Gilmore Community School, student council members collected holiday arts and crafts – made and donated by fellow students – to deliver to seniors at nearby Seton Villa.

The residents of the seniors home then watched from their windows yesterday (Dec. 1) as Gilmore staff and students (in cohorts and following safety protocols) paraded past dressed in festive gear for a jingle bell walk.

The event was a big hit with the seniors home, according to Seton Villa recreation manager Alexis Zornio.

“Today was the most fun we have had in a really really long time here at Seton Villa,” Zornio wrote in a thank-you note to the school. “The residents were talking about it all day and how we got our own private parade. Thank you so much for including us and for doing this; it was just what we needed to get into the holiday spirit.”

At Chaffey-Burke Elementary, meanwhile, eight classes of students in kindergarten to Grade 2 created 180 personalized holiday cards for “Be a Santa to a Senior” – a program that sees Home Instead senior care partner with other local businesses to facilitate the purchase and distribution of presents for seniors.

The cards crafted by the Chaffey-Burke students will be delivered alongside the gifts, according to the school district.

“We were so happy to do this for the seniors, and for the students to learn about doing things to warm someone else’s heart,” said Chaffey-Burke kindergarten teacher Cathy Nielsen.

A student teacher working in Nielsen’s class, Thea Tilston, had come up with the idea of getting the kids involved.

At both Burnaby North Secondary and Stride Avenue Community School, students have been working on the “Sunshine Notes Project” with the Intentional Acts of Kindness Foundation and the City of Burnaby’s citizen support services.

The idea is to connect with seniors through note writing and making cards and art.

The students’ contributions are included in packages of other goods delivered to seniors by volunteers.

Many seniors, are connecting back with students and sharing information about their lives.

“I put your drawing on my fridge,” one senior named Zoe wrote to a student at Stride. “It has a special spot right in the centre of the door where I can see it every time I open my fridge. I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and used to have lots of time to draw and paint in the winter because our school was closed for the months of January and February…Our school was a lot like the one at the Burnaby Village Museum. The desks are the same.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor