With the current national and statewide guidelines on social distancing keeping senior citizens from visitors for their own safety, the area’s most vulnerable are now becoming increasingly isolated. But there are several Moorestown residents working on reaching out to ensure the area’s seniors don’t feel forgotten.
Moorestown resident Carin Troy has created “Moorestown Send a Smile,” a program through which Moorestown residents can send cards to seniors who may be experiencing isolation or loneliness during this time. Local charitable group Lions Heart Moorestown Boys 2023 is also working on a letter writing initiative to connect locals with seniors in assisted living facilities.
Troy said the inspiration for “Moorestown Send a Smile” came from a conversation with her neighbor.
“It really hit me when I realized that my neighbor’s 95-year-old father, who lives independently in a senior center, was no longer allowed visitors due to coronavirus,” Troy said. “He had recently moved to this facility earlier this year and is very lonely since his family cannot visit. It occurred to me that there are probably many, many seniors in this same situation.”
She said while the students are at home and looking for ideas to help with their own boredom, she thought it might appeal to the community to send cards to these isolated seniors to brighten their day. She subsequently reached out to Mayor Nicole Gillespie to run the idea by her, and Gillespie contacted the Moorestown Library to see if they would allow Troy to put a collection bin there.
The cards can be store bought or handmade but must be able to fit in a six by nine inch envelope. Any resident who wants to include his or her address is welcome to do so, if he or she is interested in continuing to correspond with the card’s recipient.
Tamara Johns, a Senior Care Consultant for CarePatrol, compiled a list of the Moorestown senior centers and contacts for Troy, who in turn emailed each of them. She said they were very receptive to the idea and gave her the number of seniors in each facility so that she could ensure each resident gets a card. At this time, there are more than 500 residents that they’re making cards for.
Two collection bins are set up in town with one at the entrance to the Moorestown Library and one at 9 Sycamore Lane in Moorestown Hunt. Troy has also since created a Facebook page called “Moorestown Send-A-Smile” to create awareness and allow for questions.
Troy said they are wearing gloves to pick up the cards and then placing them in a garage for at least ten days for safety reasons. She said regarding the virus living on mail, she’s going by the CDC guidelines, which is why we are sequestering the cards and letters for at least three days before distributing.
“My hope is for children and adults to think of others who may also be impacted during this period of quarantine,” Troy said. “We owe a lot to our seniors who have paved the way for us in so many areas, and I’m hoping that Moorestown Send-A-Smile creates caring and empathy for those living alone right now.”
Kate Mies, class coordinator for Lions Heart Moorestown Boys 2023, said when the social distancing guidelines were put in place, the group met virtually and discussed what they could do to make a positive impact while casting a wide net for others to also participate and to increase the community impact. Out of that conversation, the letter writing campaign was born.
Those interested in participating can write letters or make a card and drop them off at 704 Dominion Drive in Moorestown. Lions Heart members will be making weekly drops or will give the cards to organizations including Meals on Wheels for distribution.
“Seniors are often the most isolated throughout the year due to health concerns, mobility issues, and less access to technology; this situation is worsened due to the coronavirus,” Mies said. “Many seniors live alone and in order to protect them, visitors are not allowed any more. In working with these other great organizations, like Meals on Wheels and Chefs for Seniors, we can leverage our strengths.”
With the initiation of the letter-writing campaign, the group came up with the hashtag #LionsHeartSeniorConnection. Mies said they will continue to use this hashtag to spread messages about future campaigns to connect with the seniors in the community, and they’re asking that the community also use this hashtag when responding to any Lions Heart senior initiatives.
Lions Heart will also provide up to five service hours a week for those who participate. Participants can leave a note with their name, email address and how many hours they spent, and Lions Heart will email him or her a completed volunteer form.
The group will be collecting cards until April 30. Anyone with questions can email LionsHeartMoorestown@gmail.com.
Troy said at this time, there is no end date in mind for “Moorestown Send a Smile.”
“We will be collecting cards for as long the coronavirus keeps our seniors isolated,” Troy said.
Anyone who would like to have a senior added to the list, can email Troy at email@example.com or send a message via the Moorestown Send-A-Smile Facebook page with the appropriate contact information.