Handled with care; St. Joseph Hospital delivers gifts for Christmas Basket Project

Mounds of multicolored Christmas gifts filled the Carl Amelio Room at St. Joseph Hospital on Thursday as employees gathered to give thanks before distributing them to 65 Greater Nashua families for the the 57th annual Christmas Basket Project.

Festively dressed staff shared in prayer and sang classic Christmas carols, including "Silent Night" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful," before groups of volunteers delivered carts loaded with the gifts to local homes, including 162 children. Among the gifts were 19 bicycles.

Each family also receives all the food needed to make a Christmas dinner, including a turkey.

The Christmas Basket Project, one of the Catholic hospital’s biggest philanthropic events, was founded by nursing students and faculty from the original school of nursing, but has since expanded to all departments of St. Joseph Hospital.

The hospital works with local schools, social service agencies and parishes to identify families who need assistance during the holiday season.

Rich Boehler, president and CEO of St. Joseph Hospital, said the event is an excellent team-building exercise for staff.

"It’s something that brings the organization together, and the build and crescendo to this day is really wonderful," Boehler said.

Kathy Cowette, director of planning and marketing at the hospital, was one of the many volunteers who delivered the gifts.

"It just warms my heart to spread Christmas cheer to families that are in need or struggling this time of year," Cowette said.

Kathleen Rice Orshak, vice president of mission and ethics, said coordinating events such as the Christmas Basket Project is part of St. Joseph Hospital’s mission to "contribute to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of (its) community of patients, family, friends and neighbors."

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-1243, dedry@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_Derek.