Generational valentine exchange and Kindness Initiative hope to boost spirits during long pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Betsy Wood has been doing her best impression of a mail carrier. She picked up valentines made by preschoolers at the Discovery Learning Center and Steamboat Montessori School and delivered them to residents at Casey’s Pond and the Routt County Council on Aging.
But this was not just a delivery, it was a swap. Wood, director of community outreach for Alpine Bank, picked up a stack of valentines the seniors made and brought them back for preschoolers and the staff.
“We definitely had way over 200 (valentines) here in Steamboat,” Wood said.
The effort to “share the love” ahead of Valentine’s Day by Alpine Bank and the local nonprofits is also being done in five other counties the bank serves in Colorado.
With similar goals, another initiative, launched by UCHealth, seeks to inspire people to do random acts of kindness, which can actually have health benefits.
Wood said employees at the bank pitched in to make valentines as well, ensuring they had plenty to go around. The bank had a template that students and seniors could use, and some did, but others chose to make them by hand.
“I started to think about how difficult it has been this year and especially for those little kids, or kids in general, as well as the people in these retirement communities,” Wood said.
The valentines will be delivered to residents at Casey’s Pond when they get their meal this weekend and will be given out when the Routt County Council on Aging delivers food to seniors’ homes.
For those living in retirement communities, the pandemic has led to more isolation and less ability to see their families, and Wood thought making valentines for them could bring them a lot of joy, just as making them did for the preschoolers.
“Making valentines brought joy to the kids knowing they were going to be delivered to our neighbors at Casey’s Pond,” said Stephanie Martin, associate director at the Discovery Learning Center in a statement.
Wood said the bank hopes to do more initiatives connecting people from multiple generations over the next couple of years as the bank nears its 50th anniversary.
“This in particular is something that we feel like is so important — just celebrating generations and giving gratitude and connecting the community together,” Wood said.
With a similar goal of spreading positive vibes, UCHealth is launching their Kindness Initiative next week, encouraging people throughout their network to do simple things for others like holding open a door, writing a heartfelt card or sending flowers to someone for no reason.
“UCHealth came up with this to combat that loneliness that we have been experiencing, that isolation that has been induced by the pandemic,” said Rachel Slick, a behavioral health clinician at UCHealth. “We are encouraging people to perform acts of kindness and to share them with us.”
The initiative is leading up to Random Acts of Kindness Day on Feb. 17, and UCHealth has a website set up for people to submit what kindness means to them. The hope is they are able to facilitate a chain reaction of kindness.
During the Week of Kindness, which kicks off on Feb. 17 and runs through Feb. 24, people will be able to order free postcards or signs on the site for other people with different phrases about kindness.
While such an act will likely put a smile on someone’s face, it also has real health benefits.
“Performing acts of kindness can show generally increasing those neurotransmitters that are responsible for feeling good,” Slick said. “We hear a lot about serotonin and dopamine, these sort of feel good chemicals in the brain that we look at when we treat anxiety and depressive disorders.”
Doing small acts of kindness can boost those chemicals in the brain, which can lead to improved mood and more energy. Slick said when people treat their mental health better, those impacts can be seen physically as well — often leading to less aches and pains. Kindness can also lower stress levels, which can impact blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
Slick said kindness is always helpful, but even more so when the pandemic has required people to be physically distant from each other.
“We’re trying to recognize that we can still connect with each other in a safe way and sort of promote these positive conversations in the midst of all this stress and negativity that is circulating,” Slick said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Running out of gas while traveling from Denver to Steamboat Springs just might have saved Mac Stilec’s life.