Volunteers customize bears and blankets for care home residents

Caring for others

October 31, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 22
Maria H. Klassen |
St. Catharines
Bears and Blankets care kits. (Photo by Anna Winger)

Jan Steven, a commissioned chaplain with Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, has found a new way to show care for seniors in long term care facilities. The new venture starts with buying new or next-to-new teddy bears and blankets from the Mennonite Central Committee Christian Benefit Thrift Shop in St. Catharines, Ontario. Then Mary Koop, who, like Steven, attends Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines, makes scarves for the stuffed animals and embroiders the name of a long-term care resident on a bear. For the blankets, she makes labels that say “Wrapped in love—Grace friends.” Ester Funk, also from Grace Church, crochets blankets or shawls to contribute. Steven adds a card which says, “You are beary sweet,” and a bear-paw cookie (diet permitting) to complete the package.

Then the items are brought to long term care residents who get few visitors or are unable to participate in social activities in the home. Depending on the situation, Steven may stay for a visit and come back regularly. At times, the kits are delivered by care home staff.

Steven has visited seniors in long-term care for decades. Her first placement as a social worker was in long term care in the hospital in Sudbury, Ontario. Years later, in an unofficial pastoral role, she and a friend spent many hours visiting seniors in care homes, often bringing flowers and a card. This led to delivering thrift store blankets and eventually plush toys.

Steven says she has had countless memorable conversations with seniors and has developed many wonderful relationships.

Steven currently serves six care residences in the Niagara area.

To date, 70 bear and blanket care kits have been delivered. Steven prays for a loving and listening heart as she delivers these kits. This is something any group can do. Also, donations of bears and blankets are welcome. For more information contact Jan Steven at janscats@gmail.com.

Bears and Blankets care kits. (Photo by Anna Winger)

From left to right Jan Steven, Mary Koop and Ester Funk with a bears and blankets. (Photo by Anna Winger)

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