NEW BEDFORD — Now even those without nearby family will receive "Seasons Greetings," thanks to community donations of holiday cards.
A spin-off from her successful "Valentines for Nana" and "FaceTime for Nana" projects, speech therapist Jill Valadao is once again collecting cards with quotes and thoughtful messages to distribute to residents of nursing and assisted living homes.
"There was such positive feedback on both ends, card creators and receivers," Valadao said.
When interviewed back in February for her Valentine's Day project, she was already thinking the idea would translate well into the holiday season if the pandemic was still going on, restricting families in their visiting hours to see loved ones.
"Life is still very isolated," she said.
Valadao, who works with many local nursing homes in Greater New Bedford, said the visitor policy is tightening up again as COVID-19 numbers are on the rise. Even if family members are allowed to visit for one hour, it's one hour out of the 18 hours residents are active, she said.
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As a result of Valentines for Nana, more than 2,000 valentines were distributed to every resident in nursing and assisted living homes in the area, which made the most impact for those who did not have any remaining living family members. Valadao received thank-you cards in the mail and phone calls from residents saying how much the small gesture made them smile.
"Elderly people love children, just seeing children smile at Christmas," Valadao said. "Cards are providing a lot more than on the surface of getting a card in the mail from someone they don’t know, it’s more than that."
Valadao encourages anyone to send in holiday cards to keep the family spirit alive for the seniors. They can be handmade, store-bought or even leftovers from personalized photo family cards. She encourages people to order 10 extra cards to send out to elderly residents, saying it will spark conversations with visiting relatives of "who's that?" and spread holiday cheer within the community.
"This time of year, people want to give, and everybody can help," Valadao said. "You don't have to address it to anybody, you can just sign your name."
For Valentine's Day, Bishop Stang National Honor Society members submitted dozens of handmade cards with thoughtful messages. Valadao said that still stands out to her, especially coming from teenagers.
"It gives you faith in humanity that people are good," Valadao said. "A positive statement has gone a long way. People in nursing homes are forgotten."
In addition to the elderly, Valadao plans to send holiday cards to Alex Rogers, a Somerset teenager battling leukemia. For his birthday, his family requested cards and letters addressed to Rogers during his stay at Boston Children's Hospital. Valadao would like to include Rogers in her holiday card collection.
Valadao is collecting cards until Dec. 18 in a drop-off bin on the back deck of her mother's house at 269 Brownell Ave. on the corner of Richfield Street.
Standard-Times staff writer Kerri Tallman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @kerri_tallman for links to recent articles.
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This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Holiday cards are being collected for nursing homes on the South Coast