‘Blessing Bags’ aimed to bring comfort to Piqua nursing home residents

Local News

Piqua High School National Honor Society Holiday Service Project co-chairs Gracie Clark and Lexi Gastelu, second and third from left, deliver “Blessing Bags” to Piqua Manor Nursing Home on Wednesday. The Piqua NHS group partnered with Rebecca Sousek, executive director of the Piqua Compassion Network, far right, to make the program a success. Pictured accepting the donation is Laura McGiffen, administrative assistant for Piqua Manor, and Pepper Pegg, administrator. (Miami Valley Today)

PIQUA, Ohio (Miami Valley Today) — Piqua High School students recently helped nursing home residents ring in the New Year.

Piqua Compassion Network Executive Director Rebecca Sousek said staff and volunteers decided this year for the holidays they wanted to do something for nursing home residents to let them know their community cares for them.

“This idea was a bit personal in nature for me, as last Christmas, my youngest sister was in a nursing home at Christmas, due to injuries caused by her being run over by a truck while crossing a street. I remembered how much she appreciated my visits, and I would bring her things like tissues, lotion, chapstick, and all sorts of other personal items we take for granted when we are home.

“She was able to get home before COVID-19 locked down the nursing homes, and my heart has really gone out to all those patients who have not been able to have family and other visitors during COVID, especially during this holiday season,” Sousek said.

Sousek said Piqua Compassion Network (PCN) then partnered with Piqua High School’s National Honor Society (NHS) students, who were looking for a community outreach project.

With the help of donors at Piqua Compassion Network, Sousek was able to deliver the 50 “Blessings Bags” to Piqua Health & Rehab on Christmas Eve. On Wednesday, Dec. 30, Souseck, along with Piqua High School National Honor Society Community Outreach Committee Co-Chairs Lexie Gastelu and Gracie Clark, delivered 90 more of the bags to Piqua Manor.

Gastelu and Clark, both seniors, said donations came from club members and beyond after one of their advisers, Kathy Hoying, reached out on Facebook, seeking help from the community. Clark said other PHS clubs, other schools and even businesses then got involved.

Gastelu said the blessing bags included items such as tissues, hand sanitizers, chapsticks and other personal care items, along with compression socks, decks of cards, dominoes, word search and crossword puzzle books.

Both students said it was rewarding to offer these creature comforts to the residents, especially during the pandemic.

“It is very rewarding to do service projects, especially this one because people have been in such a low place this year being away from family,” Gastelu said. “Morale can already be low in a nursing home, and during this time with COVID, I think it helps them to know there are people who care.”

Clark agrees that this year was especially impactful because she said last year the NHS students were able to offer a Christmas program and interact with residents, and this year they could not even see the residents.

“It’s something little, but still important,” Clark said of the bags. “We couldn’t see them to see their reactions, but we still knew what it would mean.”

Clark said projects such as the care packages have taught her that you can accomplish what you want if you just ask for help when needed.

“It definitely puts things into perspective. If you communicate with people, you can make things happen, as long as you take the initiative,” said Clark, who said Courtney Downs also is a club adviser.

Sousek said watching the students give back has helped her personal grief this year, as she lost her sister in June. Sousek said both she and her sister are also Piqua graduates and former NHS members.

“I cannot begin to tell you what joy it brought me to see these students unselfishly work on these bags during their Christmas break, not only collecting the items but taking the time to prepare and fill the bags and then also delivering them with me,” Sousek said. “COVID-19 may be trying to dampen our spirits during this holiday season, but I can assure you it has not been successful. The true spirit of the season is alive and well here in Piqua.”

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