A Christmas (in July) to Remember

This Friday, August 21, 2020, is National Senior Citizens Day, and due to COVID-19 and the resulting government social distancing and visitation restrictions at Concordia’s facilities, many families have been wondering how to best celebrate and show appreciation to their senior citizen loved ones. Last month, the virtual VBS (vacation bible school) at one of Concordia Lutheran Ministries’ member churches, Ascension Lutheran Church in McCandless, PA, exemplified a great way to bring smiles to our residents and patients (and amazing staff!): by making crafts and videos for Christmas in July celebrations at Concordia of Franklin Park and Concordia at the Orchard! (Read more for photos)

Like many planned group activities this year, Ascension Lutheran Church’s VBS transitioned to a virtual format due to the pandemic, with daily video Bible lessons and VBS “Take Home Kits” of craft instructions and materials, mission lessons, music/songs, snacks, gift cards/prizes and games as well as receiving a parent devotion for every day of the program that ran from July 13-16. About 25 children in total were enrolled in this year’s “The Armor of God” VBS, and Ascension also held an evening outdoor youth group for the older children.

Though their VBS was different this year, it didn’t alter their plans to support a mission. Rebecca Marquette, who attends Ascension and volunteered to help with the mission side of VBS, proposed that this year’s mission be Concordia at the Orchard and Concordia of Franklin Park. Ascension has many ties to Concordia being one of its member churches, and participates in Concordia’s “Adopt A Resident” Christmas gift program for residents every year.

“We’ve all had a difficult time adjusting to social distancing, separation from our friends and family and the new normal,” said Rebecca, who has also played piano for the residents at Concordia at the Orchard before. “It’s so easy to feel alone and forget that we can have joy every day in the knowledge that Jesus died and rose again for our sins, so this Christmas in July project was to help the residents and patients at Concordia be reminded of that and the Christmas spirit.”

The VBS students each got a bag of mission craft supplies in their VBS “Take Home Kit,” and since the program was virtual, they could complete their cards and other crafts whenever they had time. In total, 22 VBS students and two youth group students participated in the mission project, creating 210 Christmas in July cards for Concordia residents.

Rebecca delivered the cards as well as candy canes and signs to the two Concordia locations. The group also made a video of Christmas carols for the residents and staff to enjoy.

“We are so thankful to Ascension Lutheran Church for sharing God’s love with us through their VBS Christmas in July project,” said Concordia at the Orchard Activities Director Jodi Macko. “You have touched so many lives and we are truly grateful for that. The cards were so beautiful and my face hurt from smiling so much. We thank God for you and you are such a blessing. God Bless You!”

Concordia at the Orchard resident Connie said Ascension’s Christmas in July “was really nice of them. I really appreciate it and have my card on display.” Resident Maggie said the cards were “very pretty and nice. There are a lot of good people out there that go unnoticed.”

The residents at Concordia of Franklin Park were also impressed with their gifts from Ascension. Richard said the celebration “was a nice distraction from everything going on,” and MayAnn said everything she received made her feel “warm and fuzzy.”

While the residents and staff welcomed the jolly Christmas spirit and gifts, it was also a benefit for Ascension.

“This mission was a great way to get everyone in church involved in a project in a time when we weren’t seeing each other regularly,” said VBS Co-Director Lisa Marcellus. “We had kids, youth members and adult congregation members contribute cards. We also had kids, praise team members and some congregation members submit videos to make the video of Christmas carols.”

The Christmas in July project started from a simple idea, but it truly made a difference for people at both Concordia and Ascension who have been feeling the effects of social distancing and visitation restrictions. The groups hope to collaborate on more projects soon.

“We are so grateful to the folks over at Ascension Lutheran Church for thinking of us and sending some Christmas in July Spirit!” said Veronica Guerrini, Concordia of Franklin Park Activities Director/Volunteer Coordinator. “You truly touched the hearts of our residents and made them feel so special and loved. Thank you for all you do for us. We look forward to doing more with you in the future!”

If you would like to donate your time for a senior loved one, whether for National Senior Citizens Day or any other day of the year, consider making a craft, card or something else that they can enjoy from a safe social distance. If you would like to send uplifting materials to Concordia residents at any of our facilities (these can be photos, videos, letters, e-cards, etc.) email us at sendasmile@concordialm.org.

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