By Tom Hauer
A couple from Hutchinson has been putting smiles on people’s faces in senior facilities in McLeod County and Arizona for more than a year.
Greg and Carol St. Hilaire, founders of Caring Helping and Providing (CHAP) Ministries deliver presents and baskets to seniors for their birthdays and special occasions like Christmas. (Note: Chap is also Carol’s maiden name)
The couple has delivered more than 150 gift bags to four senior care facilities in McLeod County, Minn., and about 150 gift bags to four care facilities in Graham County, Ariz. They live six months in Minnesota and six months in Arizona.
Carol’s mother, Margaret Chap, was placed in GlenFields Living with Care in Glencoe when she was 94 years old.
“We’d see her almost every day (for six months), and we got to know other people in GlenFields,” said Greg.
Residents at GlenFields have regular activities, but the St. Hilaire wanted to bring even more activities.
“We talked to the activities director and they let us bring in Pastor Tom Rakow with two of his English Pointers to perform tricks! Residents loved petting the dogs, as well. We also played Family Feud, Let’s Make a Deal and held auctions with prizes! For prizes, they like lotions, scratchy lottery tickets, and chocolate — most loved chocolate.”
When Margaret passed away this past February at the age of 95, Greg and Carol wanted to continue visiting seniors and give them birthday bags in honor of Carol’s mom’s memory.
“That’s how it all started. It is great to see smiles on their faces,” said Greg.
They also have area churches and various organizations like the VFW and the McLeod County United Way that get involved with their giving of gifts. There are coin collection jars at 10 different facilities in McLeod County where people can donate to adopt a senior on their birthday. The more they can get, the nicer stuff they can give to the seniors.
“We’d like to see this expand in Arizona and Minnesota and eventually become a national thing,” said Greg. “It’s not that difficult to do. And when you go there and hand them these bags and spend 10 to 15 minutes with them, that’s really good. But we haven’t been able to do that this year at all. With the birthday card we put our business card with our phone number in the card, and at least half of them call us. They are just so thankful.”
The seniors wonder how the St. Hilaires know what to give them for their birthdays. Greg said the activities directors at the homes give them ideas of what to give the residents for their birthday. The activity directors’ names are Lisa at GlenFields, Nancy at Orchard Estates in Glencoe, Paulie at Cedar Crest in Hutchinson and Julie at Harmony River in Hutchinson.
Nancy at Orchard Estates said the seniors are pleasantly surprised and are very pleased to receive the gifts. “It’s a win-win situation,” she said.
If others want to get involved or know a senior to whom they can give a gift, they can call Greg or Carol at 928-792-3100.