Zachary area teens and children commissioned Cupid for a very special mission this week in hopes that the cherub of compassion and love would connect their handmade expressions to the residents of the Louisiana War Veterans Home in nearby Jackson.
Nancy Lockett, a librarian with the Zachary Branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library System, enlisted the help of young library patrons and her Teen Council to make at least 160 Valentine’s Day cards.
She said the Children and Teen Departments at the library have been creating valentines for the residents at the Veterans Home for about five years. The supplies are kept on hand, and the final products are delivered on Valentine's Day. Other EBR branches send their seasonal cards and gifts to nursing home residents.
“I think that I got the idea from an old Ann Landers column recommending people do this for veterans,” Lockett said.
Library patrons from preschoolers to older teens worked a shift over the weekend to get the final cards and letters decorated. Olivia Steudlein, 9, and her “Nana” Barbara Funderburk sat at a short table filled with craft items to connect green hearts that came together to look like a loving frog (or a puffy rocket ship depending on the perspective of the artist).
Funderburk drove from Slaughter with her granddaughter to make cards for veterans they didn’t know, but they also had a special veteran sweetheart in mind to honor. “Pawpaw is a veteran, and he was excited for us to come by,” Funderburk said.
Jonathan Harris, a 17-year-old Zachary High student, didn’t know about the project when he wandered into the library, but he grabbed some supplies and made friends with two other teens making cards.
“I’m glad that I came here and could do something meaningful for the veterans,” Harris said. “When I got to writing down and putting my feelings on paper, I realized how grateful I was. They deserve all this and more. It can never amount to all they have done for us, but we can at least give back.”
In addition to valentines for all residents, Lockett said 2017 marks the first year the Zachary Library Teen Council has adopted a veteran. The teen group expressed a desire to adopt a senior citizen for Christmas, and Lockett reached out to a contact at the Veteran's Home.
“Rather than adopting him just for Christmas, we plan to keep in touch with him all year with cards and small treats for holidays and his birthday,” she said.
Lockett couldn’t transport the teens, but she met their adopted resident “Mr. Paul” at Christmastime. “He was very appreciative of my visit and the little gifts, especially the chocolate candy, but wanted to know what he could give us,” Lockett said. “I told him that he already had given us the gift of serving our country.”
Ashlyn Kling, 13, is on the Teen Council, and this project helps her pay tribute to the memory of her great-grandfather who was a veteran.
“It’s a great way to meet people and to be a part of something,” Ashlyn said. “It’s a great way to spend time because a lot of them might not have family and it makes them happy.”