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Smiles can be hard to come by these days, but East Hills officials are hoping to change that for residents of Long Island nursing homes and assisted living facilities who may be worried about the coronavirus outbreak and are lonely due to the new normal of social distancing.
The “Made You Smile!” program started Thursday with emailed letters being sent to every house in the village asking that any children who live there send cards, letters, notes, drawings, pictures and photographs (of the sketches, animals, etc.) via computer to be forwarded to local nursing homes who will print out and distribute their creations.
“I’d like to see this put a smile on their faces,” East Hills Mayor Michael R. Koblenz said in a telephone interview Thursday. “All of us are feeling isolated so imagine how the people in the nursing homes feel. They can’t have visitors or in-person contact with loved ones. Koblenz said he hopes the program is duplicated in communities throughout Long Island. Participants in the village include Sun Harbor Manor, The Bristal at North Hills, Sands Point Center for Health and Rehabilitation, and The Tuttle Center at The Amsterdam at Harborside.
Village trustee Clara Pomerantz said she came up with the idea for the program when nursing homes were quarantined.
“Right now, nursing homes have closed their doors to guests and the people in there can only communicate with loved ones by phone," Pomerantz said. “They’re isolated not only physically but emotionally, so if we can’t get to them physically hopefully we can get to them emotionally.”
Pomerantz said the children’s work will be sent to her via email at email@example.com and she will forward it to the nursing homes. She said “Made You Smile!” was also inspired by a local neighbors helping neighbors program she started after superstorm Sandy that involved people helping the elderly with problems such as power outages and wellness.
Pomerantz said she has also gotten interest in the program via Facebook from Port Washington and Uniondale and hopes the Smile program will be used elsewhere on Long Island, but she added that children from other communities are welcome to send “smiles” to the same email being used for East Hill residents if they want to make creations for residents of East Hill facilities.
“I’m hopeful this will catch on so these residents will know someone is thinking of them at this time,” Pomerantz said.
“I think it’s a great idea and the perfect time for it [the program] to get started. It’ll benefit both the children and residents,” said Jennifer Carpentieri, administrator at White Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Woodbury. “It gives the children something to do and purpose, and the residents love things from children — they love hanging pictures they send in their rooms — it really lights them up.”