Tawanda Robbins’ living room turns into a card shop this time of year.
The cards are made by children, expressing “I love you” to people they likely will never meet.
Participants are part of Love In Action’s annual card project, which has distributed thousands of cards to people who are lonely or struggling. Volunteers will hand out the cards to people in nursing homes, shelters and rehabilitation centers on Valentine’s Day.
Robbins is founder of Love In Action.
This is the organization’s third year, and Robbins has set a goal of 4,200 cards, which she believes she already has met, based on stacks of cards stored in her house. She also has received calls from rehabilitation centers and assisted-living centers asking if she can deliver cards.
Friendship Trays and Meals on Wheels, two organizations that deliver meals to homes, will hand out cards with their meals Feb. 14.
Robbins has expanded to work with Michael’s and Chick-fil-A in StoneCrest; the businesses have hosted well-attended card-making events. Students from schools including Charlotte Christian School and Arborbrook Christian Academy have contributed.
Bill Sweezy, publisher of All About Seniors, regularly works with organizations and businesses that serve older adults. He said the cards show their recipients that they are not forgotten.
Many elderly people suffer from loneliness and depression and rarely interact with people other than caregivers or staff.
“It gives them a little bit of hope and maybe brings some smiles to their faces,” Sweezy said. “Tawanda has impacted a lot of people in a positive and loving way. There’s nothing better than that.”
Robbins, a Charlotte-based recording artist, said, “People spend a lot of money on Valentine’s Day … but there are also people who never hear, ‘I love you.’ We have the power to make a difference.”
Robbins insists that batches of cards aren’t just dropped off. Volunteers deliver cards to people individually and tell the recipient he or she is loved.
Even if the card brings only a moment of happiness, Robbins said, she believes it is worth the effort.
Robbins founded Love in Action after taking a mission trip to Trinidad in 2010, where she held concerts and met with people of all ages. Some of her strongest memories of the trip are being with children and visiting a nursing home.
When Robbins returned to Charlotte, she came up with the idea of the cards.
“We can send a message of love unconditionally,” Robbins said, “not an adult, but a child – a child in a day care who’s 2 years old, with a crayon. A teenager at Ardrey Kell High School with a colored pencil.
“All you have to do is sit down and draw a picture. Just say, ‘I love you.’ ”
Robbins began visiting day cares to share her idea. She emailed friends who worked at schools or led children’s groups. She got a list of nursing homes from Sweezy and counted the number of cards she would need.
Then cards began pouring in, some with handwritten notes, some with infants’ footprints and handprints with “I love you” written underneath.
“It was amazing,” Robbins said.
Jill Billings, who previously worked in the accounting department of a retirement community, has volunteered with Love in Action since its inception. She has seen how a small gesture can bring great joy to an elderly person.
Billings and her mother deliver Love in Action cards each year. The experience, she said, is “very, very moving.”
“You get a lot of smiles, a lot of hugs, a lot of ‘bless your hearts,’ ” Billings said.
She recalls one emotional encounter when she delivered a card to a frail, bedridden woman who could not speak.
“She … had nothing in her room,” Billings said. “I gave her a huge card. I looked at her and gave her a hug.
“She had the biggest tears in her eyes. It took me a minute to collect myself.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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