A campaign encouraging local residents to write “cheerful messages” for nursing home residents has received more than a thousand items, and will probably only get bigger, a Fort Wayne police officer organizing the drive says.
Detective Josh Hartup, who created the campaign with his wife, Jennifer, said the messages have been distributed to 12 nursing homes, but the goal is to deliver them to all local nursing homes and those on the front line at local hospitals.
“It kind of started small and it got bigger and bigger. We've only scratched the surface,” Hartup said.
Hartup got the idea working as security at Heritage Park, a nursing home and retirement complex, after he asked, “what do you guys need?”
Since then, the Hartups estimate the Cheerful Messages campaign has received 1,500 items to deliver to residents.
Hartup said he would eventually like to extend the campaign to sequestered hospital COVID-19 victims and hospital personnel.
The campaign got a boost March 21 when it appeared on the Fort Wayne Police Department's Facebook page.
“I'm guessing family, friends, and friends of friends have kids at home looking for a meaningful project to work on. At this time, we have many elderly and at-risk individuals being sequestered for their health and safety. Many are not allowed visitors or the ability to interact with their fellow residents. There have to be at least 30 of these facilities in the Fort Wayne area alone,” the FWPD Facebook page read in March.
“How about as a group we produce hundreds of letters, notes, artwork, and pictures for these community members who are feeling bored, scared, lonely, and maybe abandoned?”
The messages, created from art supplies, cards and notes found at home, will be held for 96 hours to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, said Hartup, who as chairman of the nonprofit Guns'N'Hoses Fort Wayne, has widened the campaign's outreach. Guns'N'Hoses is a charitable organization serving first responders including police, fire, paramedics and dispatch, according to its website.
Drop-off points for messages are: FWPD lobby at the Rousseau Centre downtown; Mustard Seed Furniture Bank, 3636 Illinois Rd; and St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, 1502 E. Wallen Road.
Questions or pickup are handled by calling 260-704-2215.