Valentine season is not just for romantic love.
There are two paper red hearts that hang on a cupboard in my kitchen as a reminder that there are several people living alone who need a hug or a kind gesture this Valentine’s Day.
Strangers’ names are written on the bright, cut-out hearts, including Ray from Warren and Ann of Troy. I don’t know them, but I have their addresses (also inscribed on the hearts) and will soon put Valentine’s Day cards in the mail for these two.
I’ll ask my sons to write a line or two to Ann and Ray, wishing them a good day and letting them know that people — even strangers — are thinking of them on this day.
I plucked those little heart ornaments from the Church of St. Alan’s “Heart Tree” after attending Mass there Saturday afternoon. The Rev. Don Demmer encouraged the attendees to visit the tree and select a heart, each with the name of a shut-in and his or her address on it.
“We must remember that there are several shut-ins living near us here in Metro Detroit,” said the priest. “So it would be great if we could send them a kind wish for Valentine’s Day.”
The idea to create the tree stems from none other than Sister Mary Choiniere, also of the Church of St. Alan in Troy. The energetic Choiniere is constantly dreaming up unique programs for those in need. Her idea was met with lots of enthusiasm, as droves of attendees gathered around the tree.
As I watched the parishioners select their hearts from the tree’s branches, I was reminded that the human heart is always in one condition or another — and I don’t mean medically. I’m talking broken, splintered, whole, happy, sad, romantic, fulfilled, light, heavy, joyful. Our hearts are sure to feel all these things at various points along life’s path. And for those whose names hang on this tree in the back of the church, well, many of their hearts may very well be lonely this Feb. 14.
I hope the mail carrier is busy this week, delivering lots of Valentine’s Day wishes to these lonely hearts.
Remember, shut-ins are just one group among thousands upon thousands in need.
Here are some goodwill ideas you can act on now, in the name of Valentine’s Day. Even if it means marking your calendar for a fund-raiser or event down the road, the week of Valentine's Day is a great time to decide to start thinking with your heart all year long.
Here are a few goodwill ideas that would surely put a smile on Cupid’s face.
• BRANCHING OUT — The aforementioned St. Alan "Heart Tree" is located in the Church of St. Alan at 2345 Coolidge Highway, Troy.
• SUPPLIES NEEDED — I toured the new Hope Hospitality & Warming Center in Pontiac last November. It is quite the facility and offers food and shelter to those in need. Most of the center was created by volunteers, including a huge kitchen, new bathrooms, sleeping area, medical stations and more.
Executive Director Elizabeth Kelly shared with those of us on the tour that the facility has been at capacity for most of the nights since it opened.
“There are a lot of first-time homeless due to evictions,” she noted. “That's a change for us. What was once an occasional happening is now a regular happening.”
Kelly said the center needs new socks, underwear (for men and women), deodorant and shelter supplies such as laundry detergent, bleach, toilet paper, etc.
Similar items are also needed by the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST), which provides overnight shelter to local men, women and children at area churches. Donations of gas cards, new/gently used bath towels, gift cards and diapers can be made to MCREST's Roseville office at 20415 Erin from 1-4 p.m. seven days a week.
The Macomb Township-based Macomb Charitable Foundation, which serves the children and families of Macomb County, is always in need of gift and gas cards as well. However, donations can also be made in the form of Kroger rewards, VG receipts, money or food items.
• CLEAN YOUR CLOSETS — My friend Mary Bester of Troy is assisting with collecting adult clothes for the homeless for The Welcome Inn through its Oakland County location at the Unity Church, a nondenominational gathering spot in Royal Oak. The Welcome Inn is an all-volunteer organization that offers clothing, toiletries and more to the homeless.
The church is located on the east side of Crooks Road between 13 Mile and 12 Mile roads. It’s open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. There is a circular drive in the front of the church, and you can enter with clothing donations through the second door (not the church door).
“If you are thinking spring because of this crazy weather and are cleaning out closets, please consider donating any gently used clothing,” Bester said. Items desperately needed (for men and women) include: coats/jackets, hats, gloves, socks, thermal underwear, scarves, sweatshirts and jeans.
• MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE — I recently met Laura Jannetta, an insurance specialist who volunteers for various organizations, including a large nonprofit called Recovery Inc., a self-help mental health organization that is also now known as Abraham Low Self Help Systems.
Jannetta leads a weekly group session in Royal Oak and in the past was on the board of directors and on a national training committee. She’s excited that this October, the organization will celebrate its 75th anniversary. The Detroit group’s leaders and members will be throwing a celebration. She’s going to help plan that event while raising awareness of the need for volunteers in mental health care.
“So many benefit from the Recovery Inc. method,” said Jannetta. “There is no charge to attend meetings.” For more information, email Jannetta at email@example.com.
• NET SOME LOVE — Youngsters and teens can also get into the giving act. Just look around for opportunities, like the Troy High School Boys’ Lacrosse program did recently. The program just announced that it will hold a charity game for Macomb Township-based Angels of Hope.
The organization’s Steve York attended a team meeting recently to explain to the lacrosse players what Angels of Hope does. It was up to team captains to discuss with teammates the feasibility of a charity game. The group unanimously agreed to hold the event (date to be determined, will be posted on the lacrosse teams' Facebook page — facebook.com/troycoltsLAX) for this special program. Angels of Hope provides financial assistance to children and those who love and care for them as they battle cancer (their own or that of a parent).