As the coronavirus pandemic changes the way people gather and celebrate this holiday season, a group of students at Lorain County Community College is spreading cheer and compassion with those they think might need it most.
“We are writing letters for residents in a nursing home in Elyria,” says LCCC student Madison Calvert.
The Wesleyan Village nursing home is just a few miles from the main LCCC campus. Calvert, president of LCCC’s Psi Beta Honor Society, contacted Barbara Hopkins, activities director at the home, and broached the idea. Hopkins loved it and now Calvert is one of five students in the honors group who has volunteered to send positive notes during this difficult time.
“I think it is so hard for certain groups of people, especially in the nursing homes right now,” Calvert says. “I know a lot of homes aren’t able to let family come visit because they are at such a high risk, so we thought if there’s anyone who needs a pick me up right now, it’s those in nursing homes.”
LCCC associate professor James Jordan, who co-advises the Psi Beta Honor Society with professor Michelle Foust, Ph.D., says the students came up with the idea after hearing about national letter-writing campaigns.
“We thought we’d take on our own campaign to help lift their spirits and give some joy,” Jordan says.
Jordan says he and Dr. Foust have “sat back and watched” as the students use their writing to let others know that while they might be feeling alone, they are part of a community that will always support each other.
“I think that right now everyone has to come together; it’s not just about us,” says LCCC University Partnership student Jenna Leach. “Everyone feels alone now more than ever, so it’s important that we help each other.”
Randi Schmidt, also a University Partnership student, knows that helping others doesn’t always take a grand gesture. Sometimes just a few small words can bring the biggest smiles.
“We sent our first group of letters last week and we received word back that the residents loved them and were really grateful, so we wanted to do it again,” Schmidt says. “I write things like, ‘just sending a reminder that you are loved’ or ‘people are thinking about you and care for you.’ Just little affirmations.”
Those little affirmations are going a long way. Hopkins says the letters, which everyone at Wesleyan Village calls “happy mail,” have helped residents like Helen Vaughan feel tethered to the outside world during an isolating time.
“Helen is 98 years old and still enjoys hand-written letters,” Hopkins says. “She was really impressed that ‘those college kids’ cared enough to hand write happy mail for our residents.”
Jordan is impressed as well. Beyond the kind act fitting well with the Psi Beta Honor Society’s goal to give back to the community, it fits well with his students’ compassion for those in need.
“They’re not doing this for a grade or to remain a member of Psi Beta,” Jordan says. “Our students are caring about the community of Lorain County and people in nursing homes who could use a little lifting up.”