A man decided to do something about the crisis of loneliness that many nursing home residents are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a crappy year all around for us,’’ Thomas Phillips, 62, who is a resident of Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing home in Rome, New York, told Syracuse.com. “No holidays, no celebrations, no getting together, no visitors. Masks and lockdowns.”
With Valentine’s Day coming up, Phillips decided to make and send a valentine to every nursing home resident in the central New York area and beyond.
Phillips connected with Ky Reardon on social media to get Valentine’s Day cards delivered to the more than 11,000 nursing home residents in the central New York area.
Since Phillips has serious heart problems, he tries to connect with the outside world through social media and now through this project, who Reardon and Phillips have dubbed “Operation Valentine.”
Soon, the project had 22 nursing homes sending cards to nearly 3,000 residents, with some residents living as far away as Virginia and North Carolina.
An aide bought 600 Valentine’s Day cards for Phillips to sign and then had someone deliver the cards to drop boxes at area coffee shops. Then, volunteers pick up the cards from the drop boxes and deliver them to the nursing homes.
More than 125 volunteers who live outside the nursing home have also created cards from scratch to deliver to nursing homes. Some cards are being dropped off, while others are being sent through the mail.
“I just want to bring a smile to their faces, and maybe they can hang in their windows and know someone cares,’’ he said. “We are all Cupids, and we just want to do a nice thing for everyone who has had such a really tough year.”
Phillips is not the only upstate New York resident to organize a Valentine’s Day card drive this year.
New York State Assemblyman Mike Norris (R-Lockport) organized a handmade Valentine’s Day card drive where local students would make valentines for seniors in nursing homes.
AARP has also organized a program called “Cupid Crew” where volunteers can download cards, decorate them, and personalize them with messages before sending them off to residential care facilities across the country.
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