Spreading cheer, love and kindness

TROY — For sixth-grade students at Van Cleve, Valentine’s Day is all about showing kindness.

“My teacher gave us cards and let us draw stuff. It’s really fun, and just writing happy stuff (…) kindness is just a nice thing to do, and it makes people smile,” sixth-grader Kimber Conners, a member of student council, said. “I just want people to smile a lot and be happy during these times.”

The cards, created by sixth graders at Van Cleve, contain drawings of hearts, flowers and sunshine as well as messages urging the reader to have a good day or to smile, because someone out there is thinking about them. The recipients will be seniors residing in local nursing homes, which are still closed to visitors due to the ongoing pandemic.

This is all done through the Troy Miami County Public Library’s “Spreading Cheer” program, which originally began in December in an effort to reach out to seniors who were homebound or residing in nursing homes during the holidays and unable to see loved ones or have visitors. According to Martha Harris, senior manager of outreach services at the library, the program was such a success that they continued it for Valentine’s Day, getting 461 cards total as of Friday.

“What the success has been is that right now, at the library, at the schools and at nursing homes, we can’t connect in person. This is a way that we can connect across those age groups and across those individual institutions, and still have a personal connection with each other,” Harris said. “It’s been a joy to read all the Valentines that have come in.”

Student council co-advisors Katie Rindler and JoLynn Scalice brought the idea to their students, who they say ran with it and took it further than either could have imagined.

“We brought it to our student council, and they ran with it. They decided, ‘hey, let’s take this back to our classmates,’ and then it just grew into a school-wide project,” Scalice said.

The school-wide project has created more than 170 Valentine cards for seniors in the area, and coincided nicely with Van Cleve’s “kindness” week. It’s also another avenue of community outreach the student council has been able to do. According to Scalice, student council also participates in Tabapalooza, which benefits the Ronald McDonald House in Dayton, and they help out with St. Patrick’s soup kitchen through an item drive every year. The response from students with this particular project was more than Scalice and Rindler had expected.

“They took it beyond just their little organization of just 12 students. They said, ‘no, we want our friends to do it’,” Scalice said. “We even have students who are on our Troy Online Academy and I’ve been getting email cards from them. They’ve been creating them at home and sending them through email, so they are also able to participate.”

Many of the members of student council sacrificed their Friday recess time to continue making Valentine’s cards to give to the library, in order to bring a smile to many seniors’ faces.

“I feel like their enthusiasm and wanting to work on (the cards), and seeing that has brought some positivity in the environment in general,” Rindler said. “I think they’re very motivated to do it. We’re not telling them that it’s going to this person specifically, so just knowing that it’s going to brighten somebody’s day and they don’t know who that is — I think that has put a different aspect on it and they enjoy that, because they know they’re giving it to someone they may or may not know.”

The handmade Valentines cards will be delivered to Troy Senior Citizens Center, Randall Residence of Troy, Storypoint, Troy Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, Morris House, and St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen. Valentine’s cards were delivered to Staunton Commons Senior Housing at the end of January.