Giving the gift of kindness and good cheer to Flamborough seniors the goal for Flamborough Connects program

Seniors benefit from Flamborough Connects holiday drive

Colleen Stinson, executive director of Flamborough Connects, is surrounded by gift bags that will be distributed to 72 older adults in Flamborough — just in time for Christmas.

Pat Watson remembers the first time she discovered that Flamborough Connects existed.

“They came knocking on my door with this beautiful gift bag,” she said.

About six years ago, Watson had just moved back to her hometown of Waterdown after spending years in Burlington. The knock at the door — and gift — came as quite a surprise.

“Of course, I cried because I’m a giver and I’m not usually on the receiving end very often. I was just overwhelmed.”

Watson started making use of the different services available to older adults available through Flamborough Connects. Eventually, being a client of the Holiday Gift Program became a yearly event.

This year, the program brought holiday cheer to 72 clients thanks to many generous donors and volunteers.

“We’ve had a lot of people donate amazing gifts and a lot of seniors are going to be really, really happy to have something,” said Colleen Stinson, executive director of Flamborough Connects.

Christmastime can be difficult for people who are shut in or isolated; initiatives like the Holiday Gift Program go a long way to keeping spirits up at this time of year. “Receiving a brightly wrapped gift when it might be the only gift that somebody gets and just knowing that somebody is thinking about them, I really hope that that does something,” Stinson said.

For donor Natalie Walker, it’s all about teaching her two children about the importance of giving to others. For the second consecutive year, she teamed up with her sister and her four children to buy gifts for local seniors.

“We started kind of doing it jointly together last year just as a way to drive home to our kids it’s not just about your wish list to Santa and what you’re getting,” said Walker. “They have a moment to pause and walk through a store where you’re purely just thinking about other people.”

This year, Flamborough Connects has seen an increase in demand for the program with requests for warm blankets, clothing, basic necessities and gloves topping recipients’ wish list. But organizers also wanted to ensure everyone received something extra special, said Stinson.

“We’re not trying to do basic food support or anything like that; we want it to be a gift for someone,” she said.

Watson is an active member at her Burlington church. But now that she lives in Waterdown, she feels further away from that social circle.

“That’s where I really feel the isolation,” she said, noting she will attend services on Christmas Eve and visit with her fellow congregants.

“Christmas Day can be hard sometimes,” she said, noting that she’ll spend the day phoning long distance relatives and watching television.

“There’s so many wonderful things on TV you can watch,” said Watson, acknowledging that Christmastime can be “a very lonely time” for many seniors.

But seeing the care and creativity put into the gift bags fills Watson with joy. Knowing that strangers are reaching out with kindness and good cheer gives her a lift.

“They were beautiful,” she said of the gift bags.

For Walker and her family, the volunteerism has been educational for her and her sister’s children.

“We just tackle the list one person at a time,” she said. “You have their name, you get to know them … you imagine what they’re about.”

And it’s proven just as rewarding to give.

“That’s the thing about volunteering I’m always amazed at,” said Walker, adding, “You give of your time to others but somehow you’re the one who walks away feeling encouraged by helping.”


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