A Story of Dedication and Love over a 40 year period
Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women has sponsored the Chit-Chat Parties at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, GA. since 1968.
Three parties were started in 1968-February: the Have-A-Heart Party- sponsored by the N.E. Deanery; May: the Have-A-Smile /Older Americans Party sponsored by the South Deanery and October: the Fall Fiesta sponsored by the N.W. Deanery.
The Women’s Guild of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Atlanta had been sending, through the DeKalb Sheriffs Department, Birthday cakes to the Volunteer Services at Central State Hospital each month. Eventually, we decided to contact the Hospital to determine if we could perform a more meaningful service for the Residents (Patients). Our question was answered by Jane Haddock. Jane was the Director of the Volunteer Services, and suggested a way that we might interact with the Hospital Residents. The IHM group held their first Chit-Chat Party at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, GA in February 1968 with four IHM women and about 45 Residents.
That Was The Beginning
Little did we realize how this outreach activity would grow and involve all the AACCW Deaneries and today, under the direction of President Joan Brown. and liasions Mary Hargaden and Carolyn McFall.
Now 40 years later, we are still going strong. Thousands of residents, volunteers (hosts and hostesses) and staff have continued the ”LOVE” project for those in need, how and when and where they are!!!!!!. We did it and are still doing it.
At the first party, approximately 40 residents were entertained. We began playing Bingo and prizes for all were handed out as they won. Special Ditty Bags containing personal items were handed to each patient as they returned to their rooms. Many other personal prizes and refreshments of home baked goods and candies ended the party.
Today some things have changed. The Hospital population has dwindled from 13,000 to approximately 1,200 nursing home residents, children and Rehabilitation Residents and the number of party guests ranges from 200 to 400 residents.
Many new gift items have been added such as shawls, lap robes for the elderly, special games and puzzles, books, crafts for the children and young adults, soft cuddly animals for everyone and special diabetic foods. Bingo games provide the biggest entertainment. All are winners and plenty of prizes such as t-shirts, pocketbooks, wallets, lotions, writing supplies, socks, etc. These items are collected from every source imaginable from very generous Atlanta people. The volunteers take the time to chat with and help the Folks “play” and “win” at Bingo. .Many are lucky and win more than once. It’s amazing that the gifts never give out- until all are happy and satisfied.
These guests are grateful and let us know that they appreciate our visits and company with smiles and many a thank you. They know that the parties are a demonstration of the caring, generosity and love of the AACCW Members who are very much interested in their well being.
Over the years we have been able to fill many odd requests, we collected over 135 FANS for areas without air-conditioning and drapery fabric to keep out the summer sun and bicycles’ galore and decorations for new Patient rooms. This was all made possible from generous AACCW members and their friends.
In 1987 the ROSA PARKS AWARD given by THE WOMEN IN COMMUNITY SERVICE was given to Eleanor O’Connor, originator of the Milledgeville Chit-Chat Parties. An honor to all the AACCW Membership for their dedication and service.
Love Goes On
AACCW has responded to Jesus’ command to serve the least of our Brothers and Sisters.
BIB – Better Infant Birth
The BIB Layette program continues to support mothers who strive to deliver healthy babies. The mothers must attend all doctor appointments and classes to educate themselves on the care and health of their babies.
AACCW donates layette items such as blankets, diapers, socks, caps, clothes, and other items needed to care for their babies. These layettes are presented to the mothers prior to delivery. We also make monetary donations and donations to assist with other siblings.
Madonna Plan/Water for Life
The Madonna Plan funds projects that empower women by improving the well-being of mothers and expectant mothers in the areas of health, education and financial security. In Guinea-Bissau, the Madonna Plan has supported the Maternity Without Risk Program. Maternity Without Risk works to reduce maternal mortality by increasing community capacity to prevent delivery complications and increasing access to quality maternal health services among pregnant women, particularly those considered to be high-risk. The project supports two houses for mothers so that pregnant women at risk receive care. Many community members are also trained to be community health agents and traditional birth assistants and to provide care and support for pregnant women.
The Water for Life fund makes clean, safe water available to families which improves their lives and health. Access to safe water can improve food production and overall health. In Ethiopia, AACCW has supported a watershed management program that focuses on providing community access to clean water and helping neighboring communities conserve natural resources. Hillside terracing and sustainable land use planning helped to naturally replenish exhausted water supplies. Communities have gained access to more water, which has increased crop production, generated more income and improved overall health.
AACCW makes monetary donations to each of these funds.
AACCW continues to support other local charitable organizations with our time, talent and treasures.
Eleanor J. O’Connor
1692 Oak Lane, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30329-2516