Most of us think of the holidays as a time of togetherness, a season for gathering with people we love, making memories, enjoying traditions and taking a break from the ordinary. But for many who live with serious mental illnesses—people like members of the Well Community—this time of year can magnify and highlight the isolation that’s present year-round. And it can be laden with numerous challenges and triggers that make managing their conditions even more difficult.
But, because many people give generously, the Christmas season can be merry for Well Community members. What would otherwise be a time that is lonely and hard is transformed through the kind hearts and willing hands of members of our larger community.
Many don’t have family or friends outside of the Well with whom they can spend the holidays. But at the Well’s Christmas party, they enjoy celebrating with one another. Together, they sing carols, enjoy a festive dinner and welcome Santa when he makes his annual visit. And, most importantly, they’re able to enjoy the connections that make the season sparkle with joy—the gift of being with others who care and making memories with one another.
The presents our members receive through the Well Community are often the only gifts they receive throughout the season. Each year at the annual Christmas party, they are each given a new tote bag stuffed with personal care items, snacks and cold-weather clothing such as warm socks and gloves, all provided by those who shop from our Amazon wish list.
During the holiday party, every member also receives a $50 Walmart gift card. These cards provide more than the items they enable Well Community members to buy. They also affirm members’ dignity by enabling them to choose what to purchase. Though our members are grateful for the clothing, food and personal care items they receive throughout the year through the Well, being able to pick for themselves rather than receive something chosen by someone else is a special blessing.
Ericka Ruiz, the Well Community’s Manager of Operations, recalls how much one of these gift cards impacted one of our members. “He started crying and telling me how much it’s going to help and how much he appreciates everything we do.”
In addition to the gifts they’re given at the party, every year Well Community members receive numerous demonstrations of kindness from others throughout the holiday season. For example, members were given “Boxes of Blessing” full of food donated by Park Cities Presbyterian Church, and the residents of Jacob’s House, our group home, will receive homemade meals and treats from friends of the Well including Suzan and Phil Sprinkle and Oscar Brown.
Tradition Made Possible Through Generosity
Longtime members look forward to the Well Community’s holiday activities each year as the traditions that make the season bright. And each year, numerous people lend a hand to make Christmas merry. They’ve come to lead singing, distribute handcrafted scarves, provide dessert and serve in other ways that together provide a truly special evening. In addition, throughout the season, other groups collect donations, distribute blankets, pack backpacks and more. And many contribute Walmart gift cards and purchase items from our Amazon wish list.
Together, this wealth of generosity and kindness is what truly makes the season merry and bright for Well Community members. As the larger community comes around them during the holidays, they are reminded that others care. And that is worth celebrating.