Christmas Partners Project

For more than 15 years, Barbara Baumgardner, MS, RD, LD, CDE, MLDE, has worked with fellow CHI Saint Joseph Health employees to make Christmas memorable for dozens of families and individuals in central and eastern Kentucky.

Christmas Partners Project

Baumgardner is CHI Saint Joseph Health’s project coordinator for Healthy Communities, but she has another role that ramps up each October: coordinator of the Christmas Partners Project.

This nearly three‑decades-old tradition at CHI Saint Joseph Health matches families in need with departments, physician practices and individuals throughout the health system that can make the holiday special by providing gifts and necessities. Baumgardner has overseen the expansion of the project from serving 20 families per year in its early years to helping 99 families and 29 individuals last Christmas.

“Early on, after we expanded the project to more than 20 families, I collected the gifts at my house,” Baumgardner said. “I would drive all over eastern Kentucky delivering presents.”

The Christmas Partners Project has come a long way since then — and it’s truly a team effort.

Santas by the Dozen

In October, Baumgardner sends out invitations to departments, groups and individuals to participate in the Christmas Partners Project. Participants visit Baumgardner’s office on the campus of Saint Joseph Hospital to choose an individual or family to help. She also visits the facilities to meet with employees interested in participating in the project.

“I rely on the staff at CHI Saint Joseph Health clinics in the communities we serve to submit the names of families and individuals for us to help because they know the people and their needs best,” Baumgardner said. “In 2018, we took requests from six clinics, CHI Saint Joseph Health Partners Clinically Integrated Network, our cancer care services and a few CHI Saint Joseph Health managers who submitted names of their employees. Everyone who needs help at Christmas makes the list.”

The Christmas Partners Project is a massive endeavor that involves dozens of departments and individuals, as well as volunteers who wrap and deliver gifts. Baumgardner finds that spirit of teamwork rewarding and is quick to give credit to the project’s participants for its success.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without the help of so many departments and employees,” she said. “People tell me it brings their department together, and that they look forward to it every year. We bring joy to many families, but we get so much more out of the experience.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.