The Notes Bringing Encouragement in the Middle of the Pandemic

Jun 5, 2020

For all the many ways COVID-19 has kept people apart, there are unique ways it has inspired some to connect. Like Sheila and Mindy.

Sheila Thomas is a 58-year-old resident of The Salvation Army’s Booth Manor, subsidized senior residences on Chicago’s west side. Mindy Huang is a 17-year-old student who just completed her junior year at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.

The two have never met. But a kind gesture from Mindy brought encouragement to Sheila exactly when she needed it most.

Mindy, a habitual volunteer, noticed a posting from The Salvation Army on the Volunteer Match website asking people to send greeting cards to residents of Booth Manor, most of whom are confined to their rooms due to health concerns during the pandemic. So Mindy made a batch of cards. But not just any cards – handmade origami cards.

“I hope each recipient not only feels encouraged and motivated by my words, but also notices the compassion behind those words, and within the meticulous folds, drawings, and lines of the entire card,” said Mindy, who has been doing origami since she was 7. “I believe that there is just so much that is expressed in a handmade gift, for it conveys my appreciation and love for that person, and the same goes for people that I have never met before. With our current situation, I want people across the country to feel loved and supported.”

Sheila certainly did. “It was very kind and it came in handy,” she said about the card Mindy sent her. Sheila hasn’t been able to attend church to go to family gatherings for the duration of the pandemic. Out of an abundance of caution, Booth Manor shut down their community room and has stopped all the communal activities that the residents enjoy, such as card games, parties, and classes. So a little extra human interaction, and the gift of being remembered, was so welcome. “It was very encouraging and put a smile on my face,” Sheila said.

Alvin Leachman, a 67-year-old Booth Manor resident, also received an encouraging card. What would he say to Mindy and the others who sent cards and letters? “Thank you for thinking about me during this pandemic!” Alvin considers his Booth community like family and misses being able to play cards with his neighbors in their community room. The card he received was a bright spot in these hard times. “It was very nice of them to do that,” he said.

Natesha Newton, Service Coordinator at Booth Manor, said the other card recipients were just as grateful. “The residents were asking, ‘Who is this person? I want to send them a thank you card for thinking about me!’” Natesha said. “It was a joyous moment when I surprised everyone at their door with a card. I loved it.”

For Mindy, encouraging others comes naturally. “Everyone deserves some happiness,” she said. During the pandemic, when she has been stuck at home herself attending classes online and missing her classmates, Mindy has been sending cards to senior housing, homeless shelters, and other organizations that have been requesting them across the country. After she completes her current batch of cards, her grand total will come to 220 sent.

When Mindy came across the request from The Salvation Army, she knew immediately she would add them to her list. “I knew that The Salvation Army was an amazing organization because of its focus and dedication to improving other people's lives,” she said, adding that she sent 20 cards to Booth Manor and 20 to Booth Lodge, a Salvation Army homeless shelter in Chicago.

“I felt so honored that people thought about my seniors the way that they have, because they didn't have to do it,” said Natesha. “But when you show seniors that you care it goes a long way because they don't have a lot of people in their lives. So, I was very grateful for that.”

As the uncertainties about COVID-19 persist, this kind of thoughtful gesture becomes even more meaningful. While Mindy admits these are trying times, “There is always a bright side to every situation,” she said. “For me, I have grown closer to my family, found more time to enjoy the outdoors, and I get to make cards for wonderful people!”

I want to send cards too!

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