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Raising Spirits Throughout the Holiday Season

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Reaching out into our communities to improve the lives of those less fortunate is one of Penn Medicine’s highest priorities.  But giving back takes on a special significance during the holiday season.

For the 15th consecutive year, employees at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania made the holidays happier for those less fortunate through its Holly Days program. Nearly 40 veterans from The Veterans Group and 22 families from local shelters had their wish lists filled, with gift cards and donations to the Covenant House, a shelter for homeless teens, totaling more than $3000! And, for the first time, outreach efforts included bringing warm pajamas, slippers and blankets to senior residents from the Centennial Healthcare and Rehab Center in West Philly. Thanks to a group of nurses from HUP’s venous access team, seven underprivileged children who wrote letters to “Operation Santa,” a program run by the Main Post Office in Philadelphia, woke up Christmas morning to see their wishes answered.

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Since 2005, Lancaster General Health’s Spirit of Giving Family Help Program has been helping employees facing a serious need or emergency situation during the holidays. This year, 90 departments “adopted” 71 LG Health families. In addition, its Labor & Delivery team at Women & Babies Hospital collected gifts for 75 families in the hospital’s Healthy Beginnings Plus program, which helps underprivileged women have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
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Penn Presbyterian Medical Center scored a big success at its annual Children’s Christmas holiday breakfast. More than 125 people from the West Powelton community feasted on French toast, sausage and milk and cookies, and, to the delight of children, Santa himself made an appearance, giving out a present to each one!

Santa also made another stop, at Pennsylvania Hospital. Teams from across the hospital “adopted” children and families of Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center, giving them a happier holiday season. At the annual celebration, children got to sit on Santa’s lap and everyone enjoyed refreshments and listened to songs from the Hall Mercer Consumer Choir.

Penn Medicine was also out in full force volunteering at Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s annual Holiday Party for the Homeless and Disadvantaged. Close to 150 employees not only wrapped hundreds of gifts but also handed them out to children at the party and helped serve a delicious holiday meal.

Raising spirits was not only aimed at members of our communities. At HUP, members of the Abrahamsohn Christmas and Easter Committee “challenged” the staff of inpatient units to brighten the lives of patients and their families as well, with its annual decorating competition.

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This year characters from the animated film Finding Dory “swam” onto one patient care unit, tailoring Dory’s “Just keep swimming” motto into one for their patients: Just keep healing. The ocean motif spread throughout the hallways leading up to a tree decorated with character cutouts as well as a “hidden” treasure, filled with toys and warm mittens that were donated to a local shelter. Charlie Brown and Snoopy – as well as all the other Peanuts characters – made an appearance on another unit that supports and encourages the bond between patients and their pets, allowing them up on the unit for visits. They also raised more than $400 for Pets for Vets, an organization that helps heal emotional wounds of military veterans by pairing each with a rehabilitated shelter dog.

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And last, but not least, members of the Abrahamsohn Committee – along with family and friends and three Santas – came to HUP on Christmas morning, singing carols on each patient care unit. “I saw smiles on the faces of patients who were thought to be unresponsive and smiles around breathing tubes,” said “Santa” C. William Hanson, MD, Penn Medicine’s chief medical information officer. “One woman asked me to bring her a new heart while another patient a few floors below told me he was ‘the Christmas miracle’ because he’d just gotten a heart transplant.”

Of course, Penn Medicine’s outreach to those in need in our communities does not end with the holiday season. Many of us will start the year volunteering our time to help others on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. At Chester County Hospital, staff are gearing up for the hospital’s annual outreach program in the spirit of Dr. King. This year they’ll collect new winter coats and warm weather accessories and donate them to agencies in their community that will distribute to Chester Country charities. Every year, they collect different items but the last coat drive brought in more than 100 coats and dozens of gloves, mittens, and scarves. “The enthusiastic spirit of our workforce is evident by the large number of donations of food, backpacks, school supplies, blankets, gift cards and toiletries over the years,” said CHRO Jackie Felicetti. “It's a fulfilling feeling to know that our efforts are serving and providing for our community.”

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