A card. A message. A gift of friendship. It doesn’t matter that it will go to a total stranger.
To the members of the Cupid Crew at the Veterans Home of California-Redding, giving bits of their time and selves to someone who might have no one is satisfying, even if they never get to know the person on the receiving end.
That is why a group of residents – some veterans, some spouses – joined together to write their stories and add other kind words on the 15 cards beautifully hand painted by Richard, a Marine veteran resident at the Home. His handiwork and their comments went to seniors chosen randomly by an organization called LifeLoop, a software company that connects seniors with family and friends, including some friends they’ve never met.
“We’re looking to give back to the community,” said Joan, the wife of an Air Force veteran. They’ve lived at the home for five years. “I was picturing myself as being in the situation of someone in the community or in a home who maybe didn’t have anyone.”
It’s become even more important when they take the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration – the isolation it has imposed upon many and, particularly, other seniors.
“I wasn’t quite clear on how to make an emotional connection with someone I hadn’t met,” said Vietnam-era Navy veteran Linda. “Then I thought of the first lockdown in March (2020). I couldn’t imagine there wouldn’t be people in a similar situation, so I decided to speak to that.”
The cards, Joan said, are special because the recipients can hold them, unlike an email.
“They can take them to bed and read what was written,” she said.
In effect, the Cupid Crew is telling the recipients that they are not alone, even when they might be quarantined in their rooms due to surges in the pandemic. There are people who care.
They joined the LifeLoop effort at the suggestion of Mari Fukushima, a rehabilitation specialist at the Home who thought it would be a great idea. She worked with Administrative Assistant Rebecca Alexander to make it happen.
“They really expressed themselves and sent out all these beautiful messages,” Fukushima said.
Some samples of what they offered:
Dottie, a World War II veteran, told of how she enlisted alongside her mother in the Army Air Corps and worked in transportation. She wrote, “Hope you have found ways to keep your spirits up. We have a great activities and nursing staff who keep us mentally and physically active.” She also tried to engage the recipient in perhaps a future chat. “It would be great to know how other seniors are doing and what the different homes plan. I wish you well.”
On another card, Joan wrote about life in the Redding Home, including the quality of care and activities for the residents. She added a personal touch, along with a bit of encouragement as well. “My husband was in the Air Force when we met 68 years ago,” she wrote. “I was employed in the base exchange. COVID-19 is a very difficult time for everyone involved, but hopefully together we will all come through. Have a wonderful day!”
Indeed, a hand-made card, a message, a gift of friendship. It doesn’t matter that it will go to a total stranger who might just become a new friend.
Because of the efforts of these women and resident artist Richard, the Redding Home’s Cupid Crew will remind 15 seniors they’ve never met that they are loved this Valentine’s Day.