NEW YORK - Rachel Bennett understands how important friendship and connection is at every stage of life.
“It doesn't have to be elaborate, I think it just has to be from the heart. I think that we underestimate the power of kindness, I think we underestimate the power of just showing up. It could be as simple as hello dear friend, I hope you’re smiling today, I’m here for you," Bennett said.
Bennett spent years giving messages to her mother, who once lived in a nursing home. Even after she died in 2016, Bennett says she remembers fondly how much the cards meant to her mother.
Which is why she’s now doing it again, but this time it's for perfect strangers.
“I cannot imagine if someone said to me you can’t see your mother in the nursing home, you’re not allowed to touch her," Bennett said.
Seniors living in nursing homes during the pandemic were not allowed visitors, many had to be isolated in their rooms - with no group activities.
This is what inspired Bennett to make sure that this population had something to look forward to.
“People are living in these nursing homes, sick, elderly, very compromised with this virus and feeling incredibly, unprecedented social isolation," she said.
Bennett started the ‘Caring by Card’ initiative in March. It started out small, in her Upper West Side apartment.
Stickers, markers, and a quick thoughtful message. She says that’s all it took to show those living in nursing homes how much she cared.
Quickly word spread and more volunteers jumped on board.
Months later, and more than 800 cards have been sent to one Brooklyn nursing home, and hundreds more across the world. People in places like Sweden, Scotland and Italy are part of the cause.
“This is so cool that across the globe, across the oceans, in a time when one might say we can’t connect there’s no connection, I’m having people say ‘I saw your project, how can I help, what can I do?'" Bennett said.
Bennett says she is reminded of her mother with every card she sends. And she he hopes the cards remind seniors how much they’re loved.
“I'm going to let that person know you’re not forgotten and you’re not alone," Bennett said.
So, for making nursing home residents feel loved during the pandemic, Rachel Bennett is our New Yorker of the Week.
To volunteer, visit caringbycard.com for more information.