Organizations bring a little extra holiday cheer to seniors this holiday season
VANCOUVER — Two nonprofits teamed up this year to bring a little extra holiday cheer to Clark County seniors. Volunteers with the Repair Clark County program have, for the last two years, been sewing reusable fabric gift bags and giving them away to market goers during the holiday season. With the pandemic, those plans needed to be adapted.
“I already had worked with Meals on Wheels People with the mask project we did earlier in the year.” says Terra Heilman, the program’s coordinator. “When it became clear we weren’t going to be ‘business as usual’ for ReWrap, I reached out to my mask contacts to see if anyone had a use for these gift bags.”
“I immediately saw the opportunity and was thrilled to partner with the repair program again.” says Janice Butzke, operations manager for Meals on Wheels People.
The repair program reached out to their sewists who had helped sew and distribute over 1,800 masks when masks were still hard to come by, early in the pandemic.
“I was overwhelmed with the response-then and now!” says Heilman. Previously, the ReWrap program created and gave away 150 and 600 bags in 2018 and 2019.
How does a program that is normally focused on repairing household items get into sewing bags and masks? The program, housed at the nonprofit Columbia Springs, is a waste reduction program, funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology. The idea behind the ReWrap program is to introduce a reusable alternative to something that is traditionally disposable (wrapping bags vs. wrapping paper.)
“It’s all about conservation at the end of the day. How can we live good lives while also preserving natural resources for future generations? I don’t believe in guilt as a motivator. Instead, I like to focus on things that bring joy. For example, upcycling some fabric and giving it a new life.” says Heilman.
This year, Meals on Wheels needed 1,000 bags to distribute donated holiday goodies.
“I had no idea if we could actually pull it off, but I was happy to have a project for us all to focus on.” says Heilman.
Using donated fabric and dipping into fabric stashes, sewists made simple gift bags that can be reused year after year.
“Normally, we sew at local markets and give away the gift bags right then and there. It helped us that we had more than a month to coordinate,” Heilman said.
In the end, the volunteers in the program were able to create more than 1,000 gift bags. They were passed to the Meals on Wheels program and volunteers and staff filled the bags with donated holiday goodies, like slippers, flashlights and cookies.
“I’m so grateful to all the sewists who impressed me once again with their skills and dedication to this project.” says Heilman.
“It helped bring a little extra holiday cheer to our clients,” says Butzke.
About Columbia Springs
Columbia Springs, founded in 2001, provides tens of thousands of children and their families the opportunity to fall in love with nature. We continue to build a community of life-long learners and land stewards through our educational opportunities, walking trails, events and workshops.
Located on a 100-acre natural area in the city of Vancouver, Columbia Springs is dedicated to providing outdoor recreation and science education close to home. The Repair Clark County program offers free fixing events, repair skills workshops and other waste reduction programming throughout Clark County.