Employees at Chicago’s St. Bernard Hospital are in full Christmas holiday spirit as each department prepares to help needy Englewood families during its 19th annual Christmas basket giveaway program. “This is the fun time of year for St. Bernard employees,” said Barbara Young, director of Community Relations and organizer of the basket giveaway program. “For 19 years, employees in all 43 departments have shared the joy of giving to residents of our community,” she added. The festivities took place on Monday, December 19, 2011 at St. Bernard Hospital, 326 W. 64th Street, in the second floor conference room from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Through the hospital’s Community Relations Committee which is comprised of 20 employees and several members of the Englewood community, the hospital becomes fully engaged in helping patients and their families, as well as other community residents whose economic needs have been documented. The committee receives family names from several sources, including the hospital’s Social Services Department and unsolicited letters from residents who fear they will not be able to provide for their families during the holiday season.
After determining which families will receive the gift baskets, each department gets the opportunity to select and adopt a family. Families range in size from three to eight members and some departments provide for two families so that a total of 50 families receive baskets.
The fun really begins when employees pool their resources and shop for their individual families. Children’s toys, clothing for the entire family, and an abundance of food are all included in the baskets. According to Ms. Young, families typically receive enough food to last for a month with special emphasis placed on providing a full Christmas dinner with a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, and other treats. Because the employees know the ages and sizes of family members, they can select age appropriate toys and clothes.
Employees decorate the hospital Christmas tree and the conference room where the employees and families will meet for the first time. “It’s so exciting for the employees to meet their adoptive families. They take such pride in shopping for them and making the gift baskets special. There’s hardly a dry eye in the hospital during this time,” said Ms. Young.
In addition to the basket giveaways, St. Bernard employees also contribute to a Christmas community coat drive spearheaded by 18 ministers in the surrounding Englewood community. Employees donate new or gently used coats and heavy jackets that the ministers give to members of their respective congregations. Not to leave any segment of the community out, St. Bernard will provide toys to children in 30 additional families through the Toys for Tots program. A number of senior citizens who live alone will also receive donations of food so that they can enjoy a hearty Christmas meal.
Christmas week brings visits from several school and church choirs who will sing Christmas carols and entertain patients and staff. During this holiday season, St. Bernard Hospital truly lives up to its duty “to participate with the community in addressing the neighborhood’s economic health.” More importantly, St. Bernard employees will brighten up the lives of some of their neighbors with their generosity and compassion.