By Colleen Rowan
Just a few days before Christmas, 34 students from Madonna High School in Weirton along with their families led a CARE-avan through the grounds of local nursing homes to let the residents and health care workers know they were thinking of them. The students gathered to do the CARE-avan because of their relationship with these facilities, said Amy Granato of the school’s Campus Ministry and Religion Department. During non-Covid times, she said, Madonna students visited with residents of local geriatric and nursing home facilities in many ways. “Our kids play cards and board games, do arts and crafts, paint the fingernails of the female residents, go Christmas caroling during the Christmas season, etc.,” Granato said. “As a matter of fact, our students had scheduled to lead weekly Stations of the Cross at Weirton Geriatric during Lent 2020— the coronavirus struck before our kids were ever able to pray the stations even one time.” The CARE-avan is one way that the students can keep the relationships with the residents going while still staying safe, Granato said. Many of the students have family members, neighbors, and friends in the facilities as well. “They know first-hand how tough things have been and continue to be for these folks,” Granato said. “Also, the students can gather together while remaining socially distant by remaining in their own family vehicles. Students enjoyed showing their creativity by decorating their vehicles and dressing up in their ‘fanciest and silliest’ Christmas outfits.” Health care workers, she said, also enjoyed and appreciated the students “drive-by shout-outs” as much as the residents. Granato, who organized the event, said that students also brought the CARE-avan to the Weirton facilities of Serra Manor, Weirton Geriatric, and Wyngate last spring. “So, it seemed like a good idea to do one at Christmastime,” she said. For the Christmas CARE-avan, the students returned to Serra Manor, Weirton Geriatric, and Wyngate and included Brightwood and Golden Oaks in Follansbee as well. “We got out and walked around past residents’ windows since their rooms were on the back side of the building,” said Christine Holmes, advancement director at Madonna who also participated. “I believe our students realized how much a simple wave hello or a sign say- ing ‘Merry Christmas’ could make a huge impact to someone who has been unable to have visitors during COVID-19 restrictions.” Students who participated also brought cannedgoods that were donated to local organizations that help out people in need in the Weirton Community, Granato said. Nearly 250 non-perishable food items were collected. Students asked Granato if the CARE-avan could take another trip during Catholic Schools Week and Valentine’s Day, and go to more residential facilities.