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Two weeks ago, we reported that senior citizens are the most vulnerable and the most isolated population during this COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, a community-wide initiative launched to reach out and connect with seniors in local nursing homes, assisted living facilities and apartments who are sheltered from almost all outside contact to protect them from the coronavirus.

Backyard Wishes, a local non-profit organization serving the needs of families of school age children, is teaming up with School District 110, the city of Waconia and local businesses on a “Community Compassion Card Drive.”

“The aim is to bring smiles and greetings to the senior citizens of our community living in senior housing,” said Jill Schmitt, card drive organizer, who serves on Backyard’s board of directors. “With virtually no contact from loved ones, we want to send warm wishes and show our community support.’”

During the week, students are encouraged to create homemade colorful cards with a message “Thinking of you,” or “You are loved,” with the only guideline being to be creative. A name and age on the card are optional, but welcome too.

Cards are being collected through the week, April 13-17, at the following locations:Waconia High School (meal pick up zone) 10:30 to noon daily; St. Boni Missile Park (meal pick up zone) 10:00-10:30 a.m. daily; and the entryway at Waconia City Hall, 201 South Vine St., 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Look for a clear plastic bin at each location labeled “Compassion Cards.”

Backyard Wishes will be responsible for collecting and delivering the cards to the respective senior housing facilities in the community, according to Schmitt. The organization will follow recommended COVID-19 health guidelines when handling/delivering the cards, and the care facilities will follow the policies they have in place for in-house deliveries.

There are 556 senior living units throughout the city so card drive organizers are hoping to get at least that many homemade greetings. Students are invited to make more than one card and adults can participate too.

Schmitt notes that her parents are elderly, living in another community, and that the only contact her family has had with them has been from outside their window.

“Our seniors need that contact and to know we care,” she said, “and this is something we can do as a community.”

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