Talking with neighbors spurred 7-year-old Annabelle Whitt’s creativity when this first grader was playing — outdoors and with a mask on — found it was hard saying goodbye without giving hugs. Knowing how important it is to keep people safe, she created a shirt that said “Warm hugs next year! Masks now!” It featured her favorite character from "Frozen," Olaf the snowman. Annabelle said she loves him because he’s funny and likes to show love to others.
Kathryn Whitt, Annabelle's mom, said she saw people making rude, even threatening comments on Boulder County Public Health’s Facebook page, so she sent a photo of her daughter wearing the shirt to BCPH to give staffers something to smile about during this hard year. That spurred the department to ask kids and families to submit COVID-safe ways they are creating joy.
While they were initially unaware of the call from public health, the Roche Family has now submitted its story. The family told BCPH about its multi-generation dedication to volunteerism with Meals on Wheels. Sarah Roche, her husband, Shannon, and her kids, Molly, 6 and a first grader, and Declan, 4, are making cards to bring smiles to Longmont’s most vulnerable population — older adults — through a partnership with Meals on Wheels.
Sarah grew up in southern California delivering meals with her mom during the summer. Those summers were special because she saw how little acts of kindness could brighten someone’s day. She also noticed the recurring theme of loneliness felt by older adults when their kids and grandkids live far away. That’s when she started delivering cards along with meals on holidays such as Veterans Day and Valentine’s Day.
Delivering cards seemed like a COVID-safe option during the holidays for the Roches and one they now offer through Longmont’s Texas Roadhouse. Shannon is the managing partner and partial owner of the restaurant while Sarah is the local store marketer. This year, they are using the to-go window to give back. Cards are handed to people through the window with a message encouraging them to participate by adding to the card and returning it to the restaurant. Sarah said she doesn’t have the exact number but believes there have been about 100 participants.
Another family, the Hughes, has found this unusual season has provided an incredible opportunity for bonding with each other. As time has gone on, Yelena Hughes has found what used to be “how do I fill all this time with my kids” has sparked happiness as they do crafts and celebrate the “season of lights” together.
One fun project she’s done with her son, Forrest, 5, and a kindergartner, and her daughter, Sage, 4 and in preschool, is creating Mod Podge paper lanterns using found objects, such as evergreen or spruce needles. Using battery-operated votive candles, the lanterns have found homes by the Christmas tree, the stairs and even as nightlights, Hughes said.
Sharing kindness has inspired these families to find creative solutions to keep their and other’s spirits high after a difficult year.
“It makes me feel good to make cards because people like getting them.” Molly Roche said.
Sarah Roche said, “We wanted to make sure that even though you know, we are a restaurant and it is 2020, we needed to make sure we were still helping out as much as we could … Knowing that our family alone has provided 50 cards, it's really impactful because a lot of these seniors, those with the highest risk in our community, are really lonely on a good year. And then they're so isolated this year that I worry about them. I love that, that this project will bring a little bit of brightness to somebody.”