An orange envelope hangs on the door of McElveen’s Pharmacy, waiting to accept cards for elders in assisted living homes who can no longer have visitors.
“Residents are essentially cut off from the outside world right now, even from each other, and that really broke my heart — picturing my own grandmother sitting in a nursing home … stuck in her room and she can’t even have a visitor,” said Laura Fowler, a mother of three in Hall County.
Nursing homes, memory care facilities and assisted living facilities are working under a tight protocol in the age of COVID-19. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus raised alarm bells for these facilities after an outbreak in a Washington state facility killed a large number of residents. It was one of the earliest outbreaks in the United States.
As a result, facilities in Hall County and around the country have been operating on lockdown — barring visitors in practically all cases except for end-of-life situations.
But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t thinking about them, and a couple of local women want to prove it.
Fowler and Annie Stanley have worked up an idea to let these elders know they’re thinking about them: homemade cards from local children.
“All of us are looking for ways to keep our kids busy, and we want to help but we feel helpless,” Fowler said. “It’s just a time where we want to do something.”
Stanley, who also works in human resources for a company managing assisted-living facilities, has volunteered the pharmacy she owns with her husband as a drop-off point.
“Just thinking about it, and putting myself in their shoes, the only thing I would look forward to every day is my visitors and my family coming to see me,” Stanley said on Tuesday, March 24. “When that’s cut off, it gets lonely.”
The pair are encouraging any families in the area to make paper cards expressing love, appreciation and prayers for general elders — they can’t deliver to specific people in homes in the county — who are alone while the country deals with the outbreak.
Cards can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday at McElveen’s Pharmacy, 1210 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville.
The cards will be held for 24 hours and then distributed to elders in local homes. The effort is just getting off the ground, and Stanley’s pharmacy has just started collecting cards.
“I know some people are not going to want to come in, so I thought a good idea might be to put a big envelope on the door and we’ll just bring it in every night,” Stanley said. “I just went by and taped it up.”
The pharmacy owner credits Fowler with coming up with the idea during a recent Sunday school class.
“I have young children at home, and they love to craft,” Fowler said. “Now more than ever, I’m in need of activities to do. I thought, ‘Why don’t I have my kids make cards for all of these people stuck in isolation and get the community involved?’”