In September, the AARP Southwest Roanoke Chapter #4652 and the Roanoke Eureka Chapter #0514 members, attending their second ever Zoom meeting, considered what the chapters might do for community outreach given the restraints placed on social interaction by the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of in-person events by AARP. They landed on the idea of creating thinking of you cards for residents of nursing homes in the Roanoke Valley. Within a few weeks they had collected more than 200 cards and delivered them to Salem Health and Rehabilitation Center. Soon after with Veterans Day on the horizon, once again members committed to donating cards, this time to the Virginia Veteran’s Care Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem, Virginia. This time members contributed over 300 cards.
At their November 2020 chapter meeting discussion ensued the possibility of extending their community service project to sending holiday cards to residents in nursing homes again. There was immediate consensus that the idea was a good one, but then the discussion turned to what the goal should be. We were told later that Brian Jacks, AARP Virginia Director of Outreach for Southwest VA, who was attending the meeting that day, stiffened a bit when he heard a member of the chapter throw out one thousand as a target goal, perhaps thinking the goal might be too high. The first two card blasts had been successful but had come nowhere close to that number of cards. Interestingly though, no member of the chapter took issue with the proposed target and so it would be: a goal of one thousand cards. Members were invited to contact local nursing homes to determine if they might be interested in having their residents receive cards and how many cards they would need.
It would be explained that the cards would include a note from an AARP chapter member with a personal signature, but it would not be sealed so that nursing home personnel could check if they chose to do so, to ensure that messages were appropriate and acceptable. Considering HIPPA regulations we would not address the cards with names but would leave the outside of the card blank. The facility could add residents’ names if they chose to.
The response was exciting from both the membership of the Roanoke-area chapters AND from the nursing homes contacted. In addition to the three facilities which had participated in the two earlier card blasts, thirteen more enthusiastically responded in the affirmative and so the total number who received cards was sixteen, including Our Lady of the Valley, Berkshire, Virginia’s Assisted Living Facility, Elm Park Estates, Snyders, Springtree, Raleigh Court, Friendship Manor Long Term Care Facility, Friendship Manor Assisted Living, Candis Assisted Living, Richfield, Woodhaven in Bedford County and Franklin Health and Rehab in Franklin County.
On final count the number of cards turned out to be one thousand five hundred twenty-five: 1,525! The final number gave new meaning to card BLAST!
The notes from the facilities involved have been profuse in their gratitude on behalf of their residents often citing that the cards “made a difference” in the lives of their clientele. Ethyl Percy Andrus reminds us that, “It is only by giving of oneself to others that we truly live.” Thank you to all members of the SW Roanoke and Eureka Chapters who gave of yourselves by creating, donating, collecting, and delivering the cards!
This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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