PHOTOS: Self Advocates of Semiahmoo sending seniors some Valentine’s Day love

Jennifer Utendale drops off one of the handmade Christmas cards that were ultimately delivered to seniors at Westminster House retirement residence. (Contributed photo)Jennifer Utendale drops off one of the handmade Christmas cards that were ultimately delivered to seniors at Westminster House retirement residence. (Contributed photo)
Jen Utendale delivers smiles to Peninsula Retirement Residence in June 2020. (Contributed photo)Jen Utendale delivers smiles to Peninsula Retirement Residence in June 2020. (Contributed photo)
A mailbox has been set up outside Semiahmoo House Society to collect Valentine’s Day cards for residents of Peninsula Retirement Residence. (Contributed photo)A mailbox has been set up outside Semiahmoo House Society to collect Valentine’s Day cards for residents of Peninsula Retirement Residence. (Contributed photo)

There’s a heartfelt effort afoot to brighten the lives of local seniors during the pandemic.

Members of Self Advocates of Semiahmoo are crafting handmade cards to send some love to residents of Peninsula Retirement Residence in time for Valentine’s Day.

With more than two weeks to go before Feb. 14, they’ve already amassed a box of around 50 of the greetings, Charmly Smith, SAS involvement co-ordinator, said Friday (Jan. 29).

By delivery day, the aim is to have one for every resident of the 2088 152 St. complex. And if things go anything like the group’s Christmas card-making endeavour, it’s unlikely they’ll fall short.

In December, the active 25-member group rallied to make and deliver holiday greetings for residents of the 117-suite Westminster House retirement residence and ended up with enough to also brighten the season for staff of the 1653 140 St. facility.

“It was neat because it was SAS members, but it was also other people from the community that added to the box (of cards),” Smith said. “People who work at Semiahmoo House, some of the people’s parents made cards – so it was kind of a community effort there.”

SAS is an organization whose members all identify as having a disability and who work to make changes through positive relationships. The group has been federally recognized for its work on the Canadian Accessibility Act and for bringing beach wheelchairs to White Rock and Crescent Beach.

READ MORE: Rugged wheelchairs to open White Rock waterfront for those with disabilities

Smith said the pandemic has sparked some great things within the group.

“It’s amazing how things changed with the pandemic. It’s so cool how everyone’s become a leader, and if they want to do something, they just call me.”

Jen Utendale suggested the Valentine’s Day blitz “to let them know that I was still thinking of them and hope to come back and volunteer after Covid.” Utendale, who volunteered at the residence pre-pandemic, also took cards and crafts made by SAS members to the residents in June.

The Christmas-card idea came from member Mady Weiczorak.

Westminster House recreation activities manager Ken Viehl said Weiczorak was a regular volunteer at the residence for at least five years before the pandemic struck. In addition to the cards, she and her mom donated quilts that the family typically makes to ship overseas, he noted.

Viehl said the residents were “pretty touched” to receive the Christmas cards. Greetings were also received at the residence from other groups and schools over the holiday, but “these were special because they were all handmade,” he said.

In an emailed statement, Weiczorak said her reason for wanting to make the cards was simple:

“Because their families can’t visit them at this time, I thought it would be nice for the seniors to get some mail during the holiday season. Before the pandemic, I used to work at Westminster House, so I wanted to let them know I miss seeing them every Wednesday.

“It made them happy to get the cards, to know we were thinking about them,” she added.

Smith said in the summer, SAS members Danielle Burns and Tracie Sheppard also brought cards to residents of Langley Gardens, after Burns – who worked there at the time – noticed they “needed some cheering up.”

Now, in addition to working on Valentine’s Day cards, the members are looking ahead to how they can make future occasions, such as Mother’s Day, brighter for others.

Smith said there’s an open invitation to anyone who’d like to get involved in the current endeavour.

“The mailbox is outside Semiahmoo House (15306 24 Ave.), so anyone is welcome to drop off a card,” she said.

”If we have an abundance of cards, I’m sure SAS members will come up with other people who would love to have them.”
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