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Have a heart: Valentine Factory collects handmade cards for older residents

Schafer’s Health & Gifts manager Sydney Strom holds a box of handmade valentines that have been dropped off at the store for the Valentine Factory project, which delivers them to nursing homes and care facilities. (BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE)

WORTHINGTON — With Valentine’s Day just 11 days away, the local Valentine Factory is at peak production, churning out heartfelt messages that will be delivered to the region’s older residents.

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The Valentine Factory, implemented in 2011 by local resident Amy Teerink, is a project that encourages people to create valentine cards that will be delivered to residents at the area’s nursing homes, care facilities and assisted-living residences. Teerink recently moved to Hawaii, but her former co-workers are continuing the effort at Schafer’s Health & Gifts in downtown Worthington.

“It was Amy’s idea,” credited Schafer’s owner Amanda Walljasper-Tate. “She had heard about it as a way to show love to people who maybe aren’t remembered or thought of on Valentine’s Day. … We just made the decision to keep it going.”

Each of the last two years, more than 400 valentines have been created and delivered via the Valentine Factory. With the heart-bedecked creations already starting to flow in, Walljasper-Tate anticipates that number will be exceeded this year.

“They’re all different styles,” she said about the handmade cards donated to the project. “The first ones we had turned in this year were made by a 3-year-old, and we’ve probably got people who are 80 making them, too.”

There are no specific guidelines for creating the valentines — any materials will do, Walljasper noted, as long as they are handmade — but she does encourage the artisans to put their name on their work.

“We ask that you please have them signed with at least your first name,” she said. “It makes them more personal.”

The project has been adopted by some local youth organizations, and participants in this week’s 507 Youth Rally organized by the Worthington Area Youth Ministers Association will create valentines as a service project.

Last year, members of John Nau’s youth group at Solid Rock Assembly hand-delivered cards to some of the recipients, and more recently the students went Christmas caroling at local nursing homes in order to make another intergenerational connection.

“We went to The Meadows, and the students really enjoyed it,” said Nau about the valentine delivery, “especially when they could do it in person, one-on-one. … For myself and my youth group, it’s really opened up our eyes to see that there’s such a need to just show compassion and build relationships with people who might not otherwise have that opportunity. When we were caroling, we saw that some of the valentines were still up from February.”

The residents at Ecumen Meadows — a local senior living facility — enjoy being remembered on Valentine’s Day, according to Meadows Life Enrichment Coordinator Cheryl Dinsmore, and the cards trigger fond memories of days past.

“They do liven up their days, and they do enjoy reminiscing about valentines and sweethearts,” she said, adding that it’s all the more special when the cards are delivered by the youths who made them. “We look forward to any intergenerational activities.”

Last year, cards were delivered to Crossroads Care Center, Ecumen Meadows, South Shore Care Center and Golden Horizons, all in Worthington; Colonial Manor in Lakefield; Maple Lawn in Fulda; and the Minnesota Veterans Home in Luverne. Any area care centers that would like to receive a delivery from the Valentine Factory should contact Walljasper-Tate, 372-7127, as she anticipates there will be plenty to go around.

In addition to the cards themselves, donations of supplies that can be used to create valentines are also appreciated.

“We collect those all year long,” said Walljasper-Tate. “So if you clean out your closet and find markers, crayons, ribbons, paper — any craft stuff — they can drop them off at the store. I keep a tub here that is marked Valentine Factory. There are lots of ways people can help if they don’t want to make cards.

“It’s just a simple thing people can do to brighten someone else’s day.”

Valentines must be dropped off at Schafer’s by 5:30 p.m. Friday. For more information, check out the Valentine Factory page on Facebook.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers may be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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