In the Community, Grants

Nightingale Fund Sends Love to Many with Handmade Cards

Stickers of metallic hearts and flowers glitter on tables, scattered among paper and scissors, lace and ribbons.

The women of the Nightingale Ministry wore red for their day’s work: creating Valentine’s Day cards for people in nursing homes or confined to home because of illness.

When Susan Saunders first established the Nightingale Fund in 2004, it supported parish nurse ministries. Eventually, that work phased out and Saunders found a new outlet to show love and support for people in need.

With a grant from the fund, “I’m ordering 600 cards at a time,” Saunders said. Embellishments come from discount and art supply stores. All the creative energy comes from the group of women gathered in a classroom at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Virginia Beach. Their effort produces hundreds of handmade cards that have been shared with the residents of five nursing facilities, accommodations for families with sick children or other loved ones, and shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Saunders hand-delivers stacks of cards to each location. Residents love receiving the cards. Staff at the facilities write to the group with words of thanks – one resident, the women learned, held her card close to her heart for a full day.

More than a dozen women gather twice a month to make cards for all kinds of occasions, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and ‘every day’ cards.

Cheryl Hummer held a ruler and eyed patterned, pastel papers as she decided what her next Valentine’s card would look like.

“It’s a little thing we do,” Hummer said. “But it means so much.”

Hummer and her friend, Pauletta Anglin, were among several women who said the card making was a kind of therapy.

“I have a husband with mobility issues,” Anglin said. “I get out of the house. This is me-time.”

Hummer said she doesn’t think of herself as a creative person. But making the cards means she uses her brain in a different way.

“You look forward to it,” she said.

Sarah Galante said her husband became ill about the time she started making cards with the group. He received several before he passed away.

“I know how good it felt,” Galante said.

Each card contains a prayer, warm wishes, and a signature from each woman to ensure that the recipients know that the cards come with love.

Each of the women has her own card-making style. Sandy Harvey likes to add a 3D element, so that seniors who receive the cards can feel raised decorations as well as see the colors. Lee Ann Weddle, a former preschool teacher, said making cards lets her play like she did with the children in her class.

Many of the women think about card making even when they are not in the group. They hunt for bits and baubles to make every card special.

“Your eye begins to look at everything as – I could use that for a card!” Anglin said.

“It’s a wonderful thing the Foundation has come up with,” Hummer said. “We have all benefitted.”

Saunders said she wants more people to share in the benefit – both of making the cards and receiving them. She encouraged others to apply for grants from the Nightingale Fund. Many more facilities would welcome handmade cards for residents, she said.

“If you have someone who can organize, people will come,” she said.

After more than 90 minutes of card making, the women pause for a prayer, and then organize an assembly line.

Each woman signs the cards, each using a different color ink, to ensure that the recipients know that the cards come with love.

To apply for a grant from the Nightingale Fund, CLICK HERE.

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