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Spreading the love: Sacred Heart Catholic School students visit local nursing homes

SALISBURY —  Sacred Heart Catholic School decided to travel elsewhere to spread joy on St. Patrick’s Day.

The school on Wednesday loaded students onto buses and took them out to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to show the residents they have not been forgotten.

The students visited four locations, including Trinity Oaks, Accordius Health, Good Shepherd and Autumn Care.

There are still strict visitor restrictions at congregate living facilities. So, the school had to work around them. They visited outside of windows, dropped off cards and snacks. The school’s varsity cheer leader squad made the rounds with cheers at Autumn Care, too.

Autumn Care Activity Director Jan Merrell said the visit was great and that the residents will talk about it for the next week.

“It’s very difficult,” Merrell said. “A lot of activity directors across the United States have quit because mentally it is very draining to come up with activities you can do with them in their rooms.”

Merrell began to tear up and said the facility has lost residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve lost some that were very active in our activity program,” Merrell said, adding she has seen residents become increasingly depressed having to deal with the strict safety protocols and visitation restrictions.

The kids all wore masks. The Sacred Heart dolphin mascot donned a mask as well.

Robin Fisher wears a few hats at Sacred Heart as the marketing and athletics director. She is also the cheerleading head coach. She said during the pandemic the students have not been out and about as much.

“This was a great day,” Fisher said.

Fisher said she lost both her parents in 2020, and she saw the impact isolation had on her father’s health. He lived in a care facility and she was not able to visit him.

Kennedy Goodman, a seventh-grade cheerleader, said she thinks the isolation hurts people in more ways than people realize. Goodman said she is glad the school is reaching out so students can be more Christ-like.

“I love doing it,” Goodman said. “I love making people happy and I really love that we get to help others when they need it.”

Sacred Hearth Principal Tyler Kulp said the school usually tries to get out in the community as much as possible, but the past year has made volunteerism difficult.

“To just show we care about them and want to help in any way possible, that was taken away from us this year,” Kulp said.

Kulp said the school wanted to think about who has been affected the most and make a difference for them in any way they could.

Kulp said a woman working at Accordius was crying when she met him because Wednesday’s events felt special to the residents. The school’s fifth graders made artwork for them.

“What we’re going to do with all these new connections that we made is we’re going to continue this,” Kulp said. “Every year we’re going to try to get out and just do more with local nursing homes.”

Merrell said vaccinated residents soon will be able to touch visiting family members, and that should make a big difference for some of the people that live there. The prospect of the pandemic coming to an end soon makes her excited.

“I’ve hung on,” Merrell said.

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