OTTUMWA — Crystal James, an Ottumwa resident, has been delivering appreciation cards and her recorded music to area nursing homes.
“It’s good for people to know what’s happening on the inside,” James said. “My goal is to have every person in every care facility have a special note. I just want to bring a smile to someone’s face; some of the music’s religious and others are cheery.”
Since last weekend, James has delivered cards or music to Vista Woods Care Center, Pennsylvania Place, Good Samaritan, Ridgewood Speciality Care and Prairie Hills. She said friends brainstormed ways to boost morale in nursing homes.
“We thought to do a prayer and said ‘Let’s try to bring the outside to the inside.’ Let’s go to sleep and dream about this and thought cards and music were brilliant ideas. We wanted to give them something extra and support and zero in on their needs.
“It’s a mission to do many kind things,” she added. “There are also many kinds of souls I want to meet. This is an important part of my life, it has been for years.”
Although she is appreciative of how she has helped elders in different nursing homes, she said, there are others who are also doing good deeds around town.
“Enthusiasm is contagious — masks are being made, people are making sure everyone is OK, bringing lunches — we are a team,” she said. “We’ll persevere and we are all working together. We have our own special spiritual gifts. Each one of us has something special we are able to contribute.”
Being able to record music and write cards, James said, has helped her with her mental health and keep a positive spirit. “It’s helped me personally and others,” she said, “when working together to do good you feel that you are still part of the wonderful family. It’s positive because you’re a part of it.”
Vista Woods Care Center Activities Director Linda Johnson said residents were overjoyed to receive cards.
“We appreciated the cards, and it brightened their days,” she said. “We’re always grateful to know that people are thinking about us. Anytime someone thinks of them, it makes them feel good. We also appreciate the thoughts and prayers that go with it.”
With suspended visits at all area nursing homes, Johnson said the elders can get lonely. To combat those feelings of loneliness Johnson tries to keep residents occupied with different activities such as puzzles, word searches, coloring and checking on residents’ needs.
“It varies from resident to resident to brighten their days,” she said. “Staff like to visit with them and they reminisce with them and we try to keep them upbeat.”
Amanda Konrad, Ridgewood Speciality Care activities director, also said the cards and recorded music livened up residents’ spirits.
“The isolation and no visits has been really hard for them,” Konrad said, “but they’ve really taken a liking to Crystal’s cards. Everyday they’re making sure they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The hardest part is them having to stay in their rooms for meals and having to adapt to social distancing and the different precautions the staff take,” she added. “But we’re doing many things like coloring, word searches and painting. When it first started, I thought of ways to make it better, and every single activity worked. And Crystal’s cards, they’ve loved them.”