Chartwell Belcourt rings in the New Year by giving back

January is a time of new beginnings. It's also a great time to help those in need, according to Chartwell Belcourt Retirement Residence. Their kind efforts to help the less fortunate will take place this month when they learn to weave milk bags into mattresses for the Haitian population devastated by the earthquake of 2010.

Their milk bag program isn't the only charitable giving initiative that will take place at Chartwell Belcourt retirement community this January, however; they'll also be presenting the Alzheimer's Association with a generous donation of $5,000 for the organization's Walk of Memories.

A safe place to sleep
Milk bags are a safe and durable alternative to sleeping on the cold and damp ground, according to Corina Baptista, Chartwell Belcourt Lifestyles and Programs Manager. She explains that the material, when weaved together, makes for an excellent bed alternative.

"In many poor regions around the world, milk bags have been used by healthcare professionals as a substitute for operating tables when resources are scarce," she explains. "So they're very reliable."

Canadian milk bags in particular are exceptionally trustworthy, according to Baptista.

"The milk bags provide a durable bed for those in need."

"They don't disintegrate or retain moisture," she says. "They're also UV resistant and they have a life span of 25 years. That's why we decided it was the perfect material to use for the beds."

Baptista coordinated the charitable giving project and six residents have joined her on a weekly basis to make the milk bag bed mats.

"Residents help with collecting the bags, laying them flat and making the connecting strands," she says. "They've been such a big help and they can't wait to learn how to weave them into beds this month."

A hands-on donation
When asked if the residence would be accepting monetary donations, Baptista replied that they would not.

"I really wanted to have a project where we could help others without giving money," she explains. "I was looking for a great way to give back by using our hands. The residents loved the idea and have been so happy to help."

A remarkable donation to the Alzheimer's Association
Last January, the Chartwell Belcourt community participated in the Alzheimer's Association's Walk of Memories, raising $120. For 2016, the team decided they wanted to step things up a notch and made a goal to donate an incredible amount of $5,000.

Baptista said the donations were obtained throughout the year through many fundraising events.

Seniors participated in bake sales throughout the year to help reach the $5,000 goal.
Seniors participated in bake sales throughout the year to help reach the $5,000 goal.

"We had a barbeque lunch and car wash during the summer, as well as multiple bake sales," she says. "Our goal was finally met during our big Christmas bake sale in December. When the residents found out that we made the $5,000 goal for the Alzheimer's Association, their smiles lit up the room."

On January 7, members of the Alzheimer's Association visited the seniors' home and presented them with a giant-size cheque of the donation.

Getting involved with the rest of the community
By raising money for the Alzheimer's Association and donating milk bags to the less fortunate in Haiti, Chartwell Belcourt is able to help both their local community and the global community. Baptista believes it's very important to involve residents in charitable giving initiatives.

"It really gives the residents purpose," she says. "It also teaches them that helping others can be extremely easy, fun and rewarding."

To learn more about Chartwell Retirement Residences' H.O.P.E. (Helping Others for Purposeful Engagement) program, or to view a sample activity calendar, click here.