Since 1999, St. Patrick Parish has been assisting Winnebago Health Institute as their annual Christmas project. Mary Krueger, pastoral associate at St. Patrick, receives a letter each fall from the institute. In the letter the parish is asked to consider focusing on the institute as their Christmas project.
“The mental health institute has an average of 115 admissions each month for short or prolonged stays,” said Krueger. “Donations help the institute offer services in treatment, recovery, social activities, physical health, clothing and acknowledgement of birthdays and holidays.”
Parish members were encouraged to donate a variety of personal care and food/snack items.
Among the items included are battery alarm clocks and radios, CD players, cans of nuts, instant coffee, chocolates, playing cards, men’s and women’s deodorant, unisex body wash, unscented shampoos and lotions, tennis shoes, watches, wallets, word search books and stationery. Monetary donations and gift cards to fast-food restaurants and retail stores such as Wal-Mart were also requested.
A list of ideas was placed in the bulletin and items were collected at the church entrance through Thanksgiving weekend. Volunteers then wrapped the gifts.
“The Christmas project unites and brings joy to the parishioners of St. Patrick who are very generous,” said Krueger. “It’s something to give out at Christmas, but it also helps people throughout the year.”
One in five people struggle with mental illness, and although focusing on a project like this may not pull at the heart strings as much as other Christmas projects benefitting children or the ill, members of St. Patrick continue to choose the Winnebago Mental Health Institute for their Christmas project.
“It’s a project that doesn’t take a lot of time that everyone can give something to,” said Krueger. “It reminds us to extend our hands and see the face of Jesus in each one of our brothers and sisters.”