Decorating contest turns recyclables into winter wonderland

Staffers Mia (top left), Leilani, Shawna and Emilio pose with some of the winning Christmas decorators at The Residence in Clayton Heights. - Jennifer Lang photo
Staffers Mia (top left), Leilani, Shawna and Emilio pose with some of the winning Christmas decorators at The Residence in Clayton Heights.
— image credit: Jennifer Lang photo

When you hear the phrase, "Christmas decorations made from recyclable materials," what do you imagine the final result would look like?

Over at The Residence at Clayton Heights, the halls and common areas have been filled with beautiful, hand-made decorations you'd easily believe came straight out of Martha Stewart's holiday workshop.

But the streamers and wreaths, baubles and bells are actually crafted from such everyday objects as old magazine pages, ginger ale cans and ensure containers, Dixie cups and even plastic bottles.

You have to look closely to notice the difference. out the stunning winter wonderland is the result of a Christmas Decorating Contest for staff and residents of the homey facility, located at 18788 71 Avenue, which opened in September 2012.

"The whole premise is we wanted to build community in the facility, and teamwork among staff, and just make the Christmas season brighter," explained Shawna Vincenzi, recreation therapist and volunteer services coordinator.

The facility is organized according to neighbourhoods to promote a home environment, she said, explaining three wings are for complex care for seniors and a fourth is for young adults with acquired brain injuries.

The Residence held a small decorating contest last Christmas, but it wasn't nearly as big. The building was too new, and the staff were still becoming familiar with their routines and the residents.

This year, "They just took off on their own," she said. "It came out to be amazing."

A bin of standard decorations was delivered to each neighbourhood, and staff and residents were responsible for decorating the common areas and hallways, Vincenzi said.

Because there wasn't a very big budget, it was decided to go with a "recycling" theme.

Some started working on decorations in August. Staff members saved medical cups and brought items like empty plastic milk jugs from home.

Among the most surprisingly beautiful decorations are five-feet tall snowmen made out of Dixie cups (washed and saved after use), and bells made out of plastic, 2-litre pop bottles.

The Clydesdale neighbourhood ended up winning over the judges, who had an admittedly difficult task before them.

"It's absolutely amazing what they've done," she said.

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