Residents are being encouraged to reach out with “kindness” to patients and residents in Searcy area nursing homes, assisted living centers and rehab facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The program is called “Cards of Kindness” and originated with Judy Wooten, the chief executive officer of Arkansas Hospice who is very involved in the regional and national levels for representing hospice issues, according to David Edwards, communications manager for Arkansas Hospice.

“She is a member of a nonprofit hospice alliance and found out another hospice organization in east Texas is doing a similar program and we thought it was a great idea and we wanted to roll it out throughout our coverage area in Arkansas,” Edwards said

He said the organization has received “several hundred responses” so far with its project.

There are two ways to get involved.

“One is they can go by the Arkansas area hospice office at 410 N. Apple St. in Searcy and drop of any type of letter, card, poem, finger painting from children, crayon-coloring drawings or anything that would convey a message of inclusion, appreciation or kind of like a nod of good will and cheers to our senior citizens that maybe are not able to get visitors now because of the social distancing practices that are in place now,” Edwards said.

Drop-off collections for “Cards of Kindness” are located at each of Arkansas Hospice’s offices.

“Every day we go out and it’s just like ‘Christmas morning,’” Edwards said. “We lift up the lid and there’s dozens of cards and letters for our senior center in there. We leave them outside the front door each day so we can practice social distancing and the people dropping them off don’t have to come into our office or facility.

“We bring them in each day and hold them in a secure area for 48 hours to assure they are sterile as far as any type of contamination. Then from there, we dump them into a bin that our local provider personnel in the office take and distribute to the area nursing homes for them to share with their residents.”

Asked if school students could help out with this effort, Edwards said, “we’ve had several children’s paintings and drawing come in. That is something we would like to encourage parents to get involved with, with their kids. Everyone is learning from home now. If there is an art class that is necessary or just the opportunity for a family activity, we would really like to encourage families to sit down together and make this a family activity to reach out to a fellow Arkansan that they maybe never met before to help life their spirits and brighten their day.”

Edwards said there is not a cut-off date yet for the “Cards of Kindness” program.

“For the foreseeable future, as long as we have social distancing protocols in place and as long as many of the nursing homes are not able to allow visitors in, we want to continue this program and encourage everyone to participate,” he said.

If someone cannot get out to drop their cards or artwork at the local office, the can mail them to Cards of Kindness c/o Arkansas Hospice, 14 Parkstone Circle, North Little Rock, AR 72216.

Carrie Amplo, patient care coordinator for Arkansas Hospice’s Searcy office, said they also bought a bunch of blank cards that they are thinking of dropping off to places like fire stations for firefighters to fill out to send to area seniors.

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