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Style Magazine

Mugs with Hugs

Mar 03, 2011 10:48AM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

It is a sad and heartbreaking statistic that 60 percent of nursing/rest home residents never had a visitor. When a person outlives their family and friends, out-of-state extended family or even the local community can often forget them. Taking care of what Tom Brokaw referred to as the “greatest generation” has been entrusted to care facilities where their basic needs are met, but they no longer have a connection with society and especially children. They are no longer afforded a bright smile, cheerful word or a warm hug.

“It’s not about the mugs…it is about the moments,” is the slogan for the Roseville-based “Mugs with Hugs.” Their mission is to bring a moment of kindness and brightness to those living in elderly care facilities. CEO Regina Phillips started the program as a one-time Christmas event in 2007. “I wanted to get the kids away from thinking about themselves,” Phillips explains. So, she solicited donations from neighbors and her employer and was able to get enough mugs and goodies for the 90 residents of the Roseville Care Center. She and her daughters delivered the mugs, and their lives were changed forever. “The children got so much back…an unconditional love.” Phillips says. She knew she wanted to make this a family tradition; however, it grew to so much more than that.

With the help of her husband and their eight children, Mugs with Hugs was born. It is now a non-profit group that is not only working here in the Sacramento region, but has branched out to several states. “Our goal is to spread the joy internationally,” Phillips says. Even though the visits started as a holiday tradition, Phillips and her family now celebrate the elderly and love every month of the year. The group is one of a few volunteer organizations that encourages and allows children to participate. 

Last Christmas, Maurya Drake and her children, eight-year-old Cailleen and four-year-old Tiernan, helped hand out the oversized brightly colored mugs filled with goodies and read stories to the residents at the El Dorado Hills Senior Care Village. “It is important that kids understand it is about giving, not getting,” Drake says of her children’s participation. Cailleen got a lot out of it too and says, “It feels good to help out. It was heartwarming to see how much the eager elders cherished and appreciated every moment with these lovely children and their parents.”

“Older people, like us all, need physical hugs and interaction,” Mary Fleeman, activity director for the Village says of this unique program. She knows the power that human interaction has with her residents. Fleeman relates, “A smile from a child can light up a room and a heart.”

For more information, to make a donation or volunteer, visit