The store shelves are filled with pink hearts and boxed chocolates. Ready or not, Valentine’s Day is a week away! (Take it from a former elementary teacher… you think there is so much time to get your kids’ valentines organized. But throw in a surprise snowstorm or stomach bug, and you’re frantically digging through the half-empty Target shelves on February 12 for 26 appropriate valentines.) Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that everyone handles differently, and that is totally fine.
My husband and I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a chance to share love with people in our community who may need to be reminded that they are loved and cared about.
Now keep in mind, we have a toddler who isn’t in school yet, so we are able to celebrate Valentine’s Day this way. If your kids are school-aged and you already have 75+ cards to oversee, this may not be the year to add more to your plate. However, if your kids are younger, don’t want to make cards for school this year, or are old enough to take some initiative, here are some ideas for spreading the love beyond your family into the community.
Boston is known for world-renowned medical care… so there are plenty of hospitals. Of course, hospitals may have restrictions about cards coming in from the outside, so it’s best to check with a hospital near you to see if they accept cards for patients (or staff!). Boston Children’s Hospital usually has a program where you can send virtual valentines to patients. It’s quick, easy, and free (you will have an option to add a monetary donation, and you will get future fundraising emails).
Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for the elderly, especially those who have recently lost a spouse after 50+ years of marriage. Boston has many city-run senior centers, but there is also a comprehensive list of contact information for senior centers in the greater Boston area. All it takes is a phone call to the center nearest you to see if they have anything planned for Valentine’s Day or if they would accept Valentine’s cards (or other donated items).
This one requires a little more advanced planning since the deadlines are often well before Valentine’s Day — so this may go under the “file away for next year” category. Hugs for Soldiers is a program that distributes valentines to deployed service members. Valentine’s for Veterans accepts cards up through Valentine’s Day (since these are sent to both deployed soldiers and domestic veterans’ organizations). If you would rather honor nearby veterans, you can contact one of the VA medical centers in the Boston area to find out if they are willing to accept and distribute valentines.
Unfortunately, stable housing continues to be a struggle in the greater Boston area. There are a number of homeless shelters in the city of Boston that are in need of donations all year, not just on a particular holiday. Check out the donation wish lists for Boston Rescue Mission, Pine Street Inn, St. Francis House, and Rosie’s Place. For the cost of roses, candy, and a fancy dinner, your family could easily put together a package of toiletries, shelf-stable food, socks, etc. to share love with those most in need.
Of course you can partner with a local or national organization to send valentine wishes to those in need, but sometimes it can be as simple as looking in your own neighborhood. If there is someone who lives alone, send your kids over with cards and flowers. You can make simple treat bags for several neighbors — never underestimate the power of baked goods and a handmade card from a child to brighten someone’s day, regardless of age or relationship status.
However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, know that you are cherished and loved! And if you have any other ideas for sharing the love with those in need, feel free to comment below.