For the 16th year St. Joseph Catholic Community in Eldersburg is trying to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of homebound individuals and residents of nursing homes in the South Carroll area for Valentine's Day.
The Sheen's Colleens ladies auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus Fulton J. Sheen Council 7612 created the "From Your Valentine" Valentine's Day card and flower project as a way to give back to the community and recognize a group of people that is sometimes overlooked, Cherie Hundertmark said.
Hundertmark, who coordinated the event for the Sheen's Colleens for six years, said it has greatly increased in size since its inception 16 years ago. "From Your Valentine" started with just a few area nursing homes and homebound individuals, and has now grown to include seven nursing homes and long-term care facilities, as well as a list of homebound St. Joseph parishioners.
Each year, ladies from the Sheen's Colleens and volunteers of all ages come together to hand-make Valentines and bud vases for more than 550 recipients, Hundertmark said.
Children in the church's religious education classes craft handmade Valentines during the first week of February, usually creating enough cards for each person to receive two.
"The valentines that the kids make are just precious," Hundertmark said. "It's a feeling of home, they're like those old homemade Valentines we used to get as kids, and it's just fun for all."
Charlene Heyden, the project coordinator this year, said crafting the valentines makes the children feel like they are really doing something good for their parish and their community.
"It makes them look outside themselves and learn to do something good for someone else," she said.
After all the valentines are made and ready to go, it's time to put together the bud vase flower arrangements, Hundertmark said.
The vases for the arrangements are supplied by members of the community, and Rippel's Florist in Eldersburg sells the group carnations, baby's breath and ferns at a the wholesale cost that florists pay. Hundertmark said she would estimate that each arrangement costs about $5 to make.
The Sheen's Colleens collect donations to help pay for the materials, flowers and any extra bud vases that are needed.
Hundertmark said this year one woman donated $100 to the cause because she said her mother has been a recipient of the valentines and flowers for several years now, and she said it means so much to her to receive the gifts.
Once the bud vases and flowers are in order, Hundertmark said the ladies of the Sheen's Colleens and other volunteers get together to assemble the arrangements.
"We have a production line going, and we get lots of hot glue gun burns and things like that," she said, "But it runs smoothly, even though it's such a big project, because we've been doing it for so many years."
On a weekend day either immediately before or after Valentine's Day, volunteers, mostly children and young adults, gather at St. Joseph's to pick up the valentines and flower arrangements and personally deliver them.
This year the valentines will be delivered Saturday, Feb. 11.
Heyden and Hundertmark both said delivery day is the best part of the entire project, because of the reactions the residents and home-bound individuals have when they receive their valentines.
"It's really heart wrenching when the kids go and deliver the vases and cards," Heyden said. "The residents will hold the valentines to their hearts and they'll cry thinking of how someone remembered them for Valentine's Day."
Donna Barnett, life enrichment director at Transitions Healthcare in Sykesville, said the residents enjoy receiving the gifts, and oftentimes they evoke happy memories from past Valentine's Days.
"Our residents are very appreciative of anything extra, be it cards or flowers or anything else," she said. "They just are ecstatic and they just feel so proud that someone thought of them."