Samaritans across Ireland have made Christmas for thousands of elderly people.
Today, upwards of 22,000 residents of nursing and care homes across Ireland will have woken up to Christmas gifts.
This is thanks to a kindness campaign called CarePack, as well as the generosity of thousands of people in Ireland.
The volunteer-led organisation, which is in its third year, aims to ensure elderly members of the community feel just as loved as anyone else on the most special day of the year.
The idea for the selfless campaign came from Geraldine Monaghan, who joined forces with Stephen Griffin to make the initiative possible.
How it started
Speaking to Her.ie, Geraldine, CarePack’s co-founder, says the idea was born from a Facebook post in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The post asked if friends were interested in sending some gifts to nursing and care homes, and the response was incredible.
“It started in 2020 from a Facebook post on my personal Facebook, just from watching the TV and looking at all the people in the nursing home talking at windows to loved ones.
“So I rang a local nursing home to see if there were residents there who would be open to receiving gifts from people that they didn’t know if I gathered a couple of friends to send them gifts because, at the time, An Post was offering free post to nursing homes. The two things just went together.”
With the knowledge that elderly residents would welcome gifts and An Post’s free post to nursing homes, all Geraldine needed was a way to make it easy and accessible for the general public to get involved, as well as interest from the people of Ireland.
However, she didn’t expect her first-time post to receive such a huge uptake.
“If it’s not easy, sometimes people won’t take it up. So, I was like, how can I make it easy?
“And that’s basically when I put up a post on Facebook and thought I’d get a couple of my friends to view it and it went viral.
“Before we knew where we were, we ended up with 13,000 [gifts for the elderly] that year across the country.”
With the demand to help our older citizens loud and clear, Geraldine says she needed to find a way to facilitate it, and this is where her partner, Stephen, came into the campaign.
It was Stephen’s idea to launch a website, now known as carepack.ie, as a way for people who are looking to give back to commit themselves to an elderly resident in Ireland.
The positive impact it has
After a majorly successful first year, the co-founder was preparing herself for the eventuality that it would slow down.
However, the demand to make our older citizens feel special only grew and grew.
“The feedback is unbelievable. We did it in 2021 too and we kind of thought then that it would tailor off because Covid was gone, there were no lockdowns, and people could visit nursing homes.
“But instead of that, it was driven from all directions really as opposed to us. The nursing homes were driving it. There were contacting us asking ‘Is this going ahead? It’s made such a difference to people’.
“We actually couldn’t believe the amount of people that are in nursing homes who don’t have any family and don’t receive gifts. Some people have never received a gift in their entire adult life,” she shared.
For members of nursing and care homes who do have family, they’re receiving the gift of someone new to talk to, as well as parties being centered around the gift deliveries from CarePack.
Not only were the elderly residents getting something from the kindness campaign, but so were the gift-givers, Geraldine adds.
“The people that were giving the gifts were getting an awful lot out of it particularly if they’ve lost somebody, you know grandparent or a parent.
“They were using this as an opportunity to buy a present in memory of that person and sending things that they would like to them and so just it just continued to grow.
“The feedback has been very positive across the board.”
The kindness spreads
The generosity of the public and the positive feedback from the campaign prompted An Post to get in touch with the organisation to work together and offer free post to nursing homes for the entirety of 2023.
In fact, with the commitments to residents being filled so quickly, there have been calls from the public for more homes to come on board to allow their elderly members to also receive gifts.
If there’s one social media account you look at today, let it be @carepack.ie, where there will be snippets of the residents’ joy as they open their gifts.
This joy would not have been made possible without Geraldine, Stephen, and the Irish public.
How to get involved next year
Nursing and care homes all over Ireland are encouraged to register with the campaign every year in October ahead of the holiday season to ensure their residents receive gifts.
Similarly, schools can also share in the giving by having students write letters to the elderly who reside in these homes.
This is truly emblematic of who the Irish people are.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
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