Gwen Henderson offers words of encouragement to those in isolation

Name: Gwen Henderson

Grade: Junior

1. What inspired you to start sending letters to veterans and healthcare workers?

“I got the idea of making cards for people in isolation and their caregivers from my aunt. She was talking about how something like that was going on where she lives in New York, so my mom and I thought why don’t we do that for people here in Grand Rapids? My mom used to take our therapy dog, Stella, to the Veterans Home and that was one of the first places we thought of. They have 197 residents and around 500 employees, so we knew we needed to get as much help as we could.”

2. Why do you think it’s important to give back to the people who give so much to us?

“I think it is important because they deserve to be thanked and deserve to be brought some joy for the service they provided our country, especially in these hard times. The residents are not allowed to have visitors and the caregivers have to continue looking after them and helping them through this, so the cards would be a great thing to brighten their day and show them that they are all appreciated.”

3. How do you deliver them? And where to?

I have placed a bin down at the end of our driveway for people to drop off their cards without contact. Anyone that wants to help can drop their cards in the bin at 5815 Manchester Hills Drive. Please be sure to address the cards to either the residents or caregivers so I know which one they are for. The Activities Director at the Veterans Home said we could simply ship them all at once to them since visitors are currently not allowed.”

4. What do the letters typically include?

“The letters include many things–you could draw a picture with a message, any inspirational quotes, poems, or anything to let them know we appreciate them.”

5. Is anyone helping you with this? How has the process been?

“Yes, I have emailed the people in my neighborhood and spoken to about 12 of my friends and they all were very happy to help. We don’t have enough people, so that’s why I wanted to spread the message to the school. I want to get the word out to as many people as possible so we have enough cards for everyone.”

6. How can others help/get involved in similar ways?

“The biggest thing we need is a lot of cards, so the best way to get involved is to help make cards and get other people working on it too.”

7. Do you think delivering these letters is helping you cope with any anxieties/other feelings surrounding the pandemic?

“This is about helping people that are alone or working every day to care for others because of the virus. I feel good by being able to help brighten someone else’s day, and hopefully, other people will want to join me as well.”

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