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Ornament donations sought by Grayslake woman to brighten holidays for patients, seniors

GRAYSLAKE – Every ornament on Elizabeth Elliott’s Christmas tree has a memory behind it.

Each one represents home.

“I can tell you what year I got it, who it was from, what it reminds me of. It’s home for me,” she said. “When I wake up on Christmas morning, I want to be home.”

The Grayslake woman has spent the past 14 years trying to help others feel that same sense of home despite spending the holiday season in a hospital or assisted living center.

Elliott’s nonprofit organization HOPE Ornaments gathers, packages and delivers donated holiday ornaments to patients and seniors in about 40 hospitals and assisted living centers throughout Lake County and the Chicago area. Last year, she added the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center into the mix, providing ornaments for children at the center during the holidays.

Elliott and her helpers wrap the ornaments in clear packaging with ribbons to ensure everyone can pick the ornament they want, “whatever reminds them of home,” Elliott said.

“The adults love to reminisce about holiday memories from the years past. The children’s faces light up when they pick out an ornament that reminds them of their favorite toy or hobby,” Elliott wrote to her supporters. “Our gift is being able to see how something as simple as a cute, funny or pretty ornament can make someone’s day a little special.”

The effort began in 2007 when Elliott gave an ornament to one of her friend’s daughter battling cancer in the hospital during the holidays.

“As cliché as it sounds, she smiled and you didn’t see the shaved head and the monitors and all that,” Elliott said.

The next year, the child joined Elliott as they handed out about 10 ornaments to children in the hospital.

Since then, the number of ornaments has grown steadily as word of HOPE Ornaments has spread. The organization has a Facebook page at, and Elliott regularly emails a newsletter to her supporters to keep them updated.

Ornaments can be sent to HOPE Ornaments, 562 Second St., Grayslake, IL 60030. HOPE Ornaments also has a GoFundMe page at to accept monetary donations for the purchase of ornaments to be distributed. Donations given by Dec. 22 will be handed out this Christmas season, although Elliott collects donations year-round.

In the past, up to 8,000 ornaments have been donated. Elliott would like to reach that number this year, but she’s projecting a total of only half that amount based on donations so far.

“Right now, I don’t have enough for all the hospitals we typically do,” she said.

Every donation helps, she said.

She recently picked up a donation of about 500 ornaments from a Home Depot in Round Lake Beach after a longtime employee, Luis Garcia of Grayslake, heard about her effort and wanted to help. He suggested the donation to his employers, who were all for it.

“It was a good feeling,” Garcia said. “She was very thankful, very appreciative of what we did. It just feels good to do something good for somebody.”

Unable to drive because of a disability, Elliott relies on a group of about 15 to 20 volunteers to help her out with HOPE Ornaments every year.

She suffers from extremely high blood pressure, which causes her to regularly pass out. She also has lost hearing and suffers from neuropathy, making her unable to feel anything below her knees. This year, she began receiving transfusions of iron.

Time spent in a transfusion center alongside patients receiving chemotherapy have given even more perspective, so she added the transfusion center at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville to HOPE Ornaments’ list of places receiving ornaments.

Elliott’s condition has no name.

“It’s been 12 years. My health is on a day-to-day basis. … I live at home with my mom and she helps me on my bad days and takes me to appointments,” Elliott said. “We just keep hoping one day, hopefully, they’ll figure it out.”

In the meantime, she’s bringing hope to others.

Although volunteers for HOPE Ornaments distribute to many of the hospitals and assisted living centers, Elliott tries to get to at least 70% of them every year.

“I go because I enjoy it and I like hearing the stories,” she said. “The people I’ve met have changed my life as much as I’ve changed their lives. I’ve made lifelong friends.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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