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Season of goodwill brings joy to elderly at Northern Ireland care home

Cards appeal goes viral on social media

Kelly Brown, Activities Therapist at Ailsa Lodge Care Home in Bangor, with resident Ellen Stewart 89. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Kelly Brown, Activities Therapist at Ailsa Lodge Care Home in Bangor, with resident Ellen Stewart 89. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

By Maureen Coleman

An employee at a north Down care home has spoken of her shock and delight after a public call for Christmas cards for the elderly residents went viral, sparking interest across the globe.

Kelly Brown appealed on Facebook to people sending cards ahead of Christmas to include an extra one addressed to 'My New Friend' at Ailsa Lodge Care Home in Bangor, where she works as an activities therapist.

After talking to residents about their memories of Christmas, she discovered that many missed the old tradition of receiving cards to hang on a string in their rooms. This prompted Kelly to put up the Facebook post, asking her friends to send extra cards to the home to revive the tradition.

By midweek, the number of shares had hit well over 1,000, with Kelly receiving offers of cards - and some gifts - from as far away as Canada, Australia, France and Greece.

Kelly said she was "overwhelmed" with the response and that it proved people still cared about human connection.

"As part of my job, I talk to the residents about things that affect them like loneliness and isolation," she said. "I was going from room to room, talking to each of them about Christmas and it kept coming up about how they used to look forward to getting cards and hanging them up on a string as a decoration.

"People don't really send Christmas cards any more, except perhaps to those closest to them. It's sad, really, because it's a connection we've lost. I came away from the residents, thinking about what they'd said and decided it would be a nice idea to put up a post on Facebook. It was aimed at my friends, asking them to send an extra card to the home, addressed to 'My New Friend'."

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Kelly Brown, Activities Therapist at Ailsa Lodge Care Home in Bangor. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Kelly Brown, Activities Therapist at Ailsa Lodge Care Home in Bangor. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Kelly went to bed, thinking it might prompt a response from a few friends. But the next day she was amazed to find it had been shared 400 times. Then it soared even further.

"I've been so uplifted by the heartwarming response," she said. "I've had messages from people in different parts of the world, asking me where Bangor was, as I hadn't put Northern Ireland on the original post.

"On Wednesday morning I received the first card to the home, which was very exciting, and they're still coming.

"We have 41 rooms at the home and what I'd love is to be able to give out a card every day in the run-up to Christmas to each and every resident. If everyone who has said they'll post one goes ahead and does it, I think we'll hit the target."

Kelly said other care homes and charities had been in touch offering to take any surplus cards off her hands. And she said random strangers had been in touch to offer Christmas gifts.

"I even had a message from one woman who makes bespoke birthday cards, offering to make a batch, free of charge, to give out to the residents on their birthdays," Kelly said.

"There's something special about Christmas that brings out the best in people. That's for sure."

If you fancy sending a care to a resident at the home, please address to: My New Friend, Ailsa Lodge Care Home, 6 Killaire Avenue, Bangor, BT19 1EW, Northern Ireland

Stones painted as Christmas decorations delivered by a member of the public to residents. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX
Stones painted as Christmas decorations delivered by a member of the public to residents. Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

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