Carolina Strong: Sending love to lonely seniors in nursing homes

CHAROTTE — Tawanda Robbins’s nonprofit is replacing loneliness with love across the U.S. by delivering Valentine’s Day cards to seniors in nursing homes.

There are about 60% of nursing home residents who don’t get regular visitors, which puts them at a greater risk of depression.

Robbins said a mission trip to Trinidad inspired her to do something back home in the U.S.

“There were groups that were isolated and lonely that we would go visit and what they wanted was our attention,” said Robbins, who founded the Love in Action Project in 2010.

Volunteers of all ages create messages of love and hope and deliver the cards to people in the community who have few friends and family.

They are making Valentine’s Day cards this month to deliver to seniors in nursing homes.

“It is important because while the world is so busy purchasing flowers and cards for our loved ones, there is a group of folks who don’t receive any visitors,” she said. “Who doesn’t receive any love, basically.”

“They oftentimes don’t get any visitors, so when they know that we’re coming, they’re dressed and ready and up and talking,” said volunteer Marybeth Ritter.

The nonprofit has expanded to 29 cities in 15 states.

More than 80,000 cards are in the hands of people combatting loneliness.

This is the first year since COVID-19 that adult volunteers, including Ritter, can deliver cards to nursing homes in person.

“COVID made us not be able to go into the nursing homes and that was really difficult, so we adjusted,” Ritter said. “We embraced the change.”

Robbins said months of social distancing at home served as a reminder.

“The pandemic, oh my goodness,” Robbins said. “I think the pandemic basically allowed us all to feel that social isolation and loneliness.”

Robbins added, “We all need to feel loved. To feel that sense of belonging. We all need it.”

VIDEO: Carolina Strong: Woman uses the power of food to help others battling cancer