With the holiday season upon us, many agencies take an energetic role in community activities. In years past, I arranged to have members of my agency assist senior citizens off buses from several local nursing homes to attend a senior tea with Santa and Christmas music. The seniors were delighted to have help off and on the buses, especially during the second year when we wore red elf hats with our uniforms.
Does your agency get involved in holiday special events, or are your activities limited to only providing emergency care? If you re looking for ways to get more involved, here are a few suggestions to get your employees (or supervisors) caught up in the holiday spirit.
Like a bowl full of jelly
A Santa suit is relatively inexpensive, and you ll get a tremendous amount of use out of one during the holiday season. You ll watch the eyes of neighborhood kids (and adults) light up when Santa is delivered to community events, waving from an ambulance or fire truck. And how about a CPR class taught by Santa? It may draw some interested people from your community who might not normally take the time to take a CPR class. Some of the following ideas illustrate other perfect reasons to pose as St. Nick.
Step on it gently
Many seniors in assisted living facilities are unable to get out and visit their families during holidays because they can t travel by car. They re well enough to visit for a few hours but aren t able to sit in the front or back seat of a car or van. A Home for the Holidays program provides transportation for seniors at no cost. Often, employees will volunteer their time, and agencies will donate the use of the ambulance. Participants, who are chosen by whatever means you feel is most appropriate, are picked up and taken to their family s home for a predetermined time and then brought back to the nursing home. As a special added touch, you might present them with a small gift bag of public education materials from your agency.
Get in from the cold
An admirable effort all year long, visiting nursing homes is especially appreciated during the holidays. Activity directors are always looking for events to hold at the senior care facilities. Playing Santa, delivering cards, hosting a punch-and-cookies event or distributing gift bags to senior-center residents makes for a fun afternoon or morning activity.
Additionally, if you have a hospital in your community, your agency may be allowed to visit chronically ill children or elderly patients around the holidays. Playing Santa is an option, but a more compassionate gesture is to ask the hospital staff if there s a particular patient without many guests and spend time with those patients with few visitors.
Shop til you drop
Agencies often sponsor collection drives for clothing, toys and gifts to be distributed to less fortunate families during the holiday season. Check with nonprofit groups and organizations in your area for established programs that coordinate donations for families in need.
Or, instead of buying gifts from a wish list, your agency can also collect donations during the year or conduct a fund-raising event to help children in your area purchase for gifts for their family. It s not the amount that matters as much as the opportunity for them to purchase meaningful gifts for their family members. Perhaps you can partner with a local retailer to host this event.
Spread the yuletide cheer (and education)
You don t have to wait for EMS week to hold an open house for your agency. Some families are looking for activities during the holiday break from school, and here is your chance to welcome members of the community to your office or station(s) and perhaps hold a short program or demonstration. Santa could visit during the program, and kids and parents can check out the inside of an ambulance and the equipment you use and visit with the members of your agency.
Your Chamber of Commerce or other community organizations may also hold a charity auction during the holiday season. As a part of the community, you should be looking for such opportunities to help these groups. Your agency can donate: first aid kits made up from supplies, first aid and/or CPR classes for a group or organization, or EMS ride-along.If your community has a traditional ceremony to light a Christmas tree, you ll want EMS to be present. Offer to have an ambulance on stand-by in case someone slips or is injured, or to provide a tent nearby for people to get out of the weather.If you have a marketing budget for your service, here s another idea to consider: Print a holiday songbook with your agency logo or other agency information on the front and back covers along with safety tips and reminders. Hand the books out to religious or other civic organizations that sing carols in the community.
Scrooges be gone
Remember its OK to start out small. Good things can grow out of that first attempt to play an active role in your community during the holiday season. Get the members of your organization involved and see how the holiday spirit affects everyone.The holidays remind us of the importance of our service to the community. Some staff may whine that they don t have the time or desire to get into the holiday spirit. But these grinches and scrooges will find out that participating in community events during the holidays is about friendship, understanding, peace for humankind and sharing it with one another, not only during the holiday season, but every day.Do you sponsor or participate in a special holiday program not mentioned here? E-mail your activities or ideas, and if I get enough material I ll write a follow up article. Happy Holidays!