Valentine’s Day can be isolating for those without romantic partners, but Dublin Grizzell Middle School student Alex Lee has been helping to make seniors in Dublin feel loved and appreciated on Feb. 14.
Alex, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, for the past five years has visited Dublin retirement and nursing homes on the eve of Valentine’s Day.
Lee and a team of friends deliver cards, flowers and balloons to residents’ doors so they have gifts on Valentine’s Day morning.
“They don’t get a lot of visitors, usually,” she said.
The Valentine’s Day eve activity was originated by Lee’s baby sitter, Kelly Gifford.
Sarah Lee said Gifford, whose maiden name was Greenzalis, was her daughter’s baby sitter for four years. In addition to watching Alex, Gifford served as an excellent mentor for her daughter, Lee said.
When Gifford first asked Alex if she would like to visit retirement and nursing homes with her and her friends to deliver Valentine’s Day gifts, her mother was hesitant. Alex was only 8, and it was a school night, Sarah Lee said.
But she said she trusted Gifford, and she knew they were doing something good.
Alex went with Gifford to deliver Valentine’s gifts the following year, as well.
When Gifford moved to Texas, she asked Alex if she would continue bringing seniors gifts.
“I took that opportunity,” Alex said.
She said she usually takes some of her friends along, and sometimes her brothers, Ryan, 11, and Evan, 9, also help.
Students from Alex’s former elementary school, Eli Pinney, make the cards.
Sarah Lee said she and another parent drive the group. They visit Dublin Retirement Village first, she said. From there, the group splits, and each group then visits two nursing homes.
Last year, Alex was able to raise about $750 for flowers through GoFundMe, she said. She also was able to use some of the money to purchase balloons.
“The residents were super excited about the balloons,” she said.
This year, Alex said, she will visit Dublin Retirement Village, Sunrise of Dublin, the Convalarium of Dublin, Heartland of Dublin and Brookdale Muirfield.
Andrea Klabbatz, program director at Dublin Retirement Village, said the Lees call to check how many residents the retirement home has, before coming to leave a flower and balloon at each resident’s door in the community’s independent-living building. Every resident wakes up to a Valentine’s Day surprise, she said.
“It is truly heartwarming and the residents are always talking about it days afterwards,” she said. “All residents feel included, loved and it brings a smile to each of their faces. (It is) truly such a thoughtful act of kindness.”
Cari Grabill, Claire Bridge program coordinator with Brookdale Muirfield, said residents in the assisted-living and memory-care units love the gifts, especially the flowers.
“A lot of the ladies really enjoy that,” she said.
Living in assisted-living settings can be repetitive, so any change is positive for residents, Grabill said.
The flowers offer an opportunity for residents to discuss memories about flowers, such as gardening or flowers they received from loved ones in the past, Grabill said.
“The fresh flowers really brighten their day,” she said.
Alex again is accepting donations via a “Flowers for the Elderly” GoFundMe page. As of Jan. 31, she had $525 toward her $600 goal. She is accepting donations through Monday, Feb. 10.
Her fundraising page is at gofundme.com/f/zd5r8n-flowers-for-the-elderly.