Hometown Heroes: Church donates hundreds of teddy bears for Christmas

WARMINSTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- There are two friendly faces that greet the people who live at Masonic Village in Warminster, Pennsylvania - Trisha Lamb and Jenny the bear.

"Especially this time of year when they can't have the normal Christmas activities. It shows that people really care," said Lamb, the activities director.

Each of the 62 residents have a smaller version of Jenny. They were Christmas presents from Lisa Walsh and St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Maple Glen.

Walsh and her church have been doing Operation Bear Hug for 15 years. Normally during the holidays, they hand deliver maybe 70 bears to patients at Lansdale Hospital.

"We've had people cry and say they haven't gotten a gift on Christmas for 20 years," said Walsh.

Rather than let the project take a backseat to the pandemic, Walsh wanted to expand it to others who could use a little extra holiday cheer this year. She immediately thought of seniors in nursing homes.

"We're just going to knock it out of the park and aim for 300, and when we got to 300, I said we're going to aim for 500," she said.

She collected 575 bears to donate to eight senior center hospitals and urgent cares.

"Every day I open the front door and see these packages from Amazon and other places just filled with bears, so our house was like a bear museum for a couple weeks here," said Tim Walsh, Lisa's husband.

The most important donation for Walsh's family was to Masonic Village. Her sister-in-law, Jenny, used to work there, and passed away a few years ago from breast cancer.

"She was way too young and very heartbreaking, but we're here for her family and that's what's important," she said.

While they may not be there in person, Walsh and her family are still giving out bear hugs this Christmas.
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