Party in a Box
If you’re stuck at home and feeling blue, what better way to lift your spirits than a party? That was the goal behind a creative initiative sparked by program directors at Communitas who then asked Tanya Tomsic, to run with the idea.
We wanted to find a way for our residents to keep in touch with their friends even though we are in the midst of a pandemic. – Tanya, residence manager
The result was a Party Box Exchange. Tanya invited managers from other homes to participate. She then paired each home with another. Staff and residents then put together a box filled with supplies for a party: balloons, streamers, games, snacks, and more. Each home was encouraged to decorate the outside of their box in a way that represented their home with the added incentive of a prize for the best decorated box. The boxes were all delivered on or near the same day so that the parties would happen on the same weekend.
Six homes in the Fraser Valley and the Human Resources department at the Communitas provincial office in Abbotsford participated. The boxes varied in size and contents but each one was filled with materials for a celebration. Tanya was encouraged by the level of participation.
“Each of the residents in our home contributed something to our box, something that was a representation of what they love,” she says. “One added a bottle of hot sauce, another some colouring pages and felt pens. Two residents added goodies like candy and root beer.”
Tanya added a collection of their home’s favourite recipes and they put together a make-it-yourself-soup canister with ingredients.
Karin Olsen, who manages a home in Abbotsford, said the party box idea came at a much-needed time for her home. One of their residents had recently passed away and they were still mourning. Yet when she and Connie, a resident at her home, started brainstorming about what they could contribute to another home, Connie suggested including something that would make them smile or laugh, something that might feel like a hug.
“So we cut out and strung together yellow smiley faces, pink hearts, and stick people holding hands in a very long string that they could wrap around themselves like a huge hug,” Karin says.
As they worked on the project, she and Connie began to smile. Then giggle. Then laugh. It sparked such creativity in them that they ended up with a box full of poetry covered envelopes, each one with a different theme, sure to make others happy. The experience turned their mourning into joy.
At another Abbotsford home, manager Jennifer Richardson’s team was trying to find a way to respond to those in Karin’s home. They wanted to do something to remember the resident who passed away and also give her housemates a way to celebrate. They knew that the woman had loved the colour red, so they included a red plastic flower in the box along with some recipes from their home.
“We had also been planning a movie night together before COVID changed those plans, so instead we gave them a movie night to have on their own,” Jennifer explains. “We included one of our favourites – “Dr. Doolittle” – and treated them to a pizza party.”
Louise Duck also manages a home in Abbotsford and says that as soon as she heard about the party box idea, she got one of her very artistic staff members to take the lead on decorating the box.
“Linda made the box look like a house and put pictures of all the residents in the windows,” Louise says.
They contacted the home where their box would be going to find out a little bit about the residents there. Louise says when they received their box, “…it was like Christmas!”
At the provincial office in Abbotsford, HR manager Victoria Davies and her team decided to treat the gentlemen in the home they’d been paired with to a movie night and an ice cream sundae party.
“We also included items tailored to each gentleman,” she says.
The ice-cream party box was a big hit in the home receiving it. Manager Shelly Knuff says the box included everything they needed to celebrate – including a big bag of cheesies, something they had also included in the party box they had prepared for another home.
“Any day we can give or get a bag of cheesies, it is a good day,” she says.
At the home where Angela is manager, the team was excited to be able to put together a party box for the HR department. They chose games that they like to play, Easter-themed treats and prizes. The box they received was themed for a pizza party.
“Our residents sure loved to unwrap the big, colourful box and enjoyed opening up all the gifts inside,” Angela says. “The pizza was a big hit as well.”
In the end, the exchange was an enormous success and gave each of the homes a wonderful event that has left good memories. It was a much-needed experience in the midst of this pandemic. Given that residents have had to stay in their homes in order to keep them safe and healthy, Jennifer says the party boxes helped give them a focus outside of themselves.
“You really can feel isolated, so this activity made everyone feel like we are still part of our wider Communitas family.”