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Letters from listeners reaching local nursing homes hit by coronavirus

Gee and Ursula's Letters of Hope Project is off to a great start.

One out of five nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Washington state has seen COVID-19 cases, with more than 200 deaths linked to these facilities.

Knowing the most severe cases impact the elderly and the sick, KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show started the Letters of Hope project, asking listeners to send cards to the residents and staff of these facilities.

Keep your high beams on

The Columbia Nursing Home is one of the local facilities that has been receiving letters from you and help from the community.

“One of the really important things with keeping spirits up has been the communication from community members, from families, and from your program,” said Beth Hartman, Director of Support Services – Life Enrichment at Columbia Nursing Home. “There has not been a single day that has gone by that I don’t have a big stack of letters waiting for me to open.”

She said she opens the letters with gloves, in her office, isolated from staff and residents before sharing them.

The nursing home is in its sixth week of their response efforts now, as active coronavirus was first identified in the community on Feb. 29, 2020.

“The family not coming in has been the hardest thing for our folks,” Hartman said. “We’re used to a lot of support from our wonderful families. … We have tried to be the eyes and ears for our families to reassure them that we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe, that we are doing our best to keep spirits up.”

The letters, cards, poems, and drawings cover the “joy board” at the home, which is now the length of an entire hallway.

“It’s just the most wonderful, uplifting thing you can imagine, and it has helped us get through every single day,” Hartman said.

When Hartman read one card to a resident the woman looked back at her with tears in her eyes and said, “People do care, don’t they?”

In addition to the letters, Columbia Nursing Home and centers across the area have been feeling the love from the community. Hartman said they’ve received donations of protective equipment, homemade masks from the “Crafters Against Covid,” choir gowns that have been repurposed and used by the staff as isolation gowns, face shields, snacks, and treats.

“The outpouring of love that we have felt has just lifted us all up,” Hartman said ” … I love Seattle, but this has shown me that Seattle’s even greater than I imagined.”

Gee and Ursula launch letter writing campaign for nursing homes

“I’ve been here for 24 years,” she added. “This is by far the roughest period of time, but it’s also the most gratifying because it has shown me the goodness that I always knew was in people. But they’re coming out in force. They’re decorating our sidewalks with chalk. They’re waving as they walk down the street walking their dogs. I mean, if there’s a lesson to be learned, and I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned, it is that people will come together and support those who need their help.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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