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'I know it’s hard': Coquitlam teen looks to bring holiday cheer to seniors home battling COVID-19

Prevented from volunteering at a Coquitlam long-term care home because of an ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Gleneagle high school student Mackenzie Manning delivered Christmas centrepieces and greeting cards to seniors home
Mackenzie Manning  seniors home Centrepieces
Grade 12 Gleneagle student Mackenzie Manning brought Christmas cards and decorations to a Coquitlam care home sealed off from the outside world due to COVID-19. - Photograph Submitted

Any other year Mackenzie Manning would be helping out with bingo night Thursdays at Lakeshore Care Centre in Coquitlam.

But 2020 hasn’t been like any normal year and the Grade 12 Gleneagle student had to give up her volunteer responsibilities after the long-term care homes sealed its doors to outside visitors across the province in an effort to keep out the coronavirus.

By Dec. 4, that effort had failed at Lakeshore. Now in week two of its COVID-19 outbreak, caregivers at the 56-bed facility have to be even more careful to restrict visitors to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

That means Manning has been unable to visit her friends for months and has been wracking her brain to come up with a way to show her love even as she couldn’t meet with residents face-to-face.

“I miss the residents so much, I got to know a lot of them really well, just not being able to see them any more is sad. I also miss the environment, it was always very positive, very supportive. It made me feel welcome.”

But one recent day as she and her mom, Jennifer, were rooting around in the crawl space of their Burquitlam home looking for holiday decorations, they found 12 vases Manning thought would be perfect for decorative table centrepieces to bring cheer to the folks at Lakeshore, and its sister long-term care facility, The Madison. 

In addition to buying the materials and decorating the vases, Manning asked a Glenayre elementary school class to make cheerful cards for the residents. The result was a large collection of colourful Christmas greeting cards and table centrepieces.

Then, suddenly on Dec. 4, Fraser Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Lakeshore, effectively shutting off the facility from the outside world and limiting the movement of residents inside the facility. 

Instead, Manning dropped them off at the nearby Madison home a few days later. Whether any of the cards or decorations make it to the residents at Lakeshore is not yet clear.

“I’m sure it’s very lonely and isolated. I can’t imagine what the residents are going through now,” she told the Tri-City News. “I hope they’ll be to able to look and realize that people care even though they can’t see them face-to-face.”

As for the cards and the vases, they were well received by the staff at The Madison, who said they would be distributed after a 72-hour quarantine period. 

“The residents have expressed their delight when informed and considered them a welcome and beautiful surprise,” said Pauline Leahy, recreation coordinator. “It is wonderful for the residents to know that they have not been forgotten at this time by the surrounding community.”

She further added that “everyone is doing their best to provide residents with a normal (as much as is possible) holiday season.”

Manning, meanwhile, hopes they bring smiles to people’s faces and that the Lakeshore facility outbreak is declared over soon, something that appears to be a still distant prospect.

On Dec. 11, Fraser Health confirmed that 22 residents and nine staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus at the long-term care facility, run by The Care Group at 657 Gatensbury Street.

The health authority said it’s supporting staff at Lakeshore. Visitors, meanwhile have been restricted throughout the facility and staff and residents movement has been curtailed. Further cleaning and infection control measures have been ramped up and twice-a-day screening for the coronavirus has been rolled out, according to the health authority.