McLean Volunteers Bring a Surprise to Hospice Patients and Families

McLean Hospice holiday bagsThere was a flurry of activities on Saturday morning, December 8th, as 24 Hospice volunteers were busily packaging items as a holiday surprise for 60 active McLean Hospice Families. They were busy wrapping scrolls containing the names of contributors, sorting beautiful prayer shawls, attaching tags, selecting fudge and adding delicate lace snowflake ornaments and tissue. 

The theme this year centered on snowflakes and was carried though on the hand- stamped snowflake tags.  The tags read “people are like snowflakes, everyone is unique but they are most beautiful when they come together.” Each turquoise bag contained a hand - knit prayer shawl donated by local churches and individuals; a loaf of bread in the design of a snowflake baked and donated by students at The Lincoln Culinary Institute; fudge made by the volunteers and a delicate snowflake ornament designed by a PA artist.

Once the bags were ready, a cadre of volunteers loaded their cars and set off to begin delivery to current families in their residences.  They traveled to homes, apartments, skilled nursing or assisted living facilities throughout the Farmington Valley, Burlington, Windsor, Bloomfield and West Hartford. 

Volunteer Taffy Wilcox served as chairperson and commented “It was a pleasure to work with other volunteers Taffy with bagsand vendors to provide an unexpected pleasure to patients, families and caregivers. It takes a “village” to coordinate all aspects of the project and the volunteers were so generous to help.”  Lori Scudder, Volunteer Coordinator, thanked Taffy for all her leadership and creativity; volunteer Marilee Porter for her liaison activities with local knitters; Pat Joy for stamping the bag tags with snowflakes, and all the volunteers who made the delicious fudge and helped in the office preparing scrolls and delivery tags.

All throughout Monday morning Scudder noted that nurses, social workers, counselors and health aides were relaying the appreciation from families.  Taffy Wilcox reported she observed first hand, the delight of one of her patients.  “When she opened her holiday bag, she oohed and aahed at her pretty pink-bordered prayer shawl and noticed the pretty leaf and flower. She immediately tucked it around her shoulders and directed me to hang her ornament where she could see it.  She said repeatedly, ‘I so appreciate you thinking about me.’ Perhaps, what made the greatest hit was the homemade fudge contained in a decorated snowflake treat bag. She eagerly accepted a piece with the approval of her caregiver.” 

“Volunteers are integral to the interdisciplinary approach to our Hospice Care,” said Coordinator Scudder.  “This Holiday project continues to be a wonderful way in which they contribute to our support of families.  Their theme was inspirational as the holidays are difficult for terminally ill patients, their families and caregivers alike. The gift bags are a reminder that they are supported at this difficult time.  We appreciate all our specially trained volunteers do so unselfishly for our program and families. These exceptional people even baked everything and ran a bake sale a few weeks ago to fund this entire holiday bag project.”

McLean Hospice serves patients and families in the Farmington Valley, Bloomfield, Bristol, Burlington, West Hartford, and Windsor. To learn more call Hospice admissions 860-658-3954 or visit to read more about Hospice and volunteering.

Photo: McLean Hospice volunteers with the holiday bags they created and delivered to 60 families. Front row: Jo O’Leary, Carolyn Veillette, Lori Scudder, Ginny Garrett, Gail Kostruba, Betsey Sessions. Back Row: Nancy Banulski, Stanley Walczewski, Kim Doan, Stoddard Reynolds.