Valentine's Day

Valentines Requested by Program Aiming to Boost Local Seniors' Mental Health

An outreach group wants to boost the spirts of 500 low-income seniors in McHenry County.

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With so many seniors feeling isolated and depressed during the pandemic, a McHenry County outreach group is organizing multiple “Adopt A Grandparent” programs, including a Valentine’s Day event, to help boost seniors’ mental health.

“With COVID it has made everything worse for people, especially with the elderly, and you know, they feel more isolated,” said Beverly Miles, a resident at Gable Point, a senior housing facility in Crystal Lake run by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois.

Sharon Saunders, another resident, is not only battling the isolation, but also ovarian cancer.

“Sometimes it is really hard to accept the loneliness,” Saunders said.

Like so many others, Saunders does not have any relatives who live nearby.

“I'd say 80% of what we were able to find, their families are either out of state or they just don't have any family anymore. So there is no one to support them and just remind them like hey, you matter, like, I see you,” said Jacci Richards, director of Fisher Outreach Group, Inc., a non-profit that does community fundraising in McHenry County.

Fisher Outreach Group has supported many causes over the years, but in 2020, Richards turned her attention to helping seniors, after seeing a social media post from a local nursing home that said residents were depressed and isolated during the coronavirus lockdown.

Richards first organized an “Adopt a Grandparent” holiday program, fulfilling seniors holiday wish lists. That has since expanded into multiple events a year, including Valentine’s Day.

“We've got six different facilities of low income seniors, over 500 seniors, that we will be putting together goodie bags for,” Richards said.

Currently, Richards has about a quarter of the donations she needs to fill goodie bags with various items that can be bought off of online wish lists at Amazon, Target and Walmart. Gifts include crossword puzzle and coloring books, and toiletry items, like soap and body wash.

They’re also in need of a handmade card to go into each goodie bag, which often is the highlight of each gift.

“Oh my gosh, I couldn't even believe that last year when I got Valentine's cards and Valentine's gifts? I mean, I don't get (gifts like) that anymore,” said Bonnie Castellonas, a senior living in Gable Point who received a Valentine’s goodie bag last year.

It’s the boost that resident Beverly Miles said all seniors, not just her neighbors, could use right now.

“It's like a dream come true for a lot of people. I'm sure it's a dream come true,” Miles said.

“It makes you feel like you matter. It makes you feel special. You know, you're not invisible, because seniors get to be of the invisible generation and then the older they get, they disappear. A lot of people have said that. I feel that. I know my sister feels that,” said Anita Thompson, also a resident at Gable Point.

“I don't want to cry, you know, but it's just wonderful to have a group like that, you know, that will help you out or do things for you,” Castellonas said.

If you or a local community group wants to make handmade cards for the “Adopt A Grandparent” Valentine’s program, you can send them to:

Fisher Outreach Group, Inc.

8600 US Hwy 14, Suite 106A, Crystal Lake, IL 60012

You can also find the goodie bag wish lists by clicking here.

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