Having made the decision to start the Bring Smiles journey, we now had cards and supplies and a little money, but to what communities were we going to deliver all these new found cards? How would we get senior communities to realize that we were legitimate and let us into their communities to deliver cards to their residents? I knew the first thing we were going to have to do was create a real non-profit. A tax exempt corporate entity with a real name that would hopefully open doors for us. That was when Bring Smiles to Forgotten Seniors was born. We would eventually go on to drop “forgotten” from our official name as we knew that there were many seniors we would be serving that were not forgotten, but that is how it started.
I suspected that the places with the most need were likely not-for-profit communities. Those with less money, but with residents who had just as much need. So, I took a chance and set up a meeting with The Senior Care Group Foundation who had a network of senior communities in the Tampa Bay Area. We told them our story and they believed in our mission so much that they let us go into their communities around the area and deliver cards to their residents. We worked on decorating cards and eventually visited every one of their communities in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The response from the residents and the staff was heartwarming and wonderful and we knew we were on to something.
Because we had a limited number of communities and were delivering once a quarter, we were able to hand deliver cards to the communities and visit the residents individually. That in itself provided more stories than you could imagine. Seeing the power that one small card could bring to a senior’s face was amazing. You may as well have handed them a million dollars because that is exactly what the card meant to them. The smiles, the tears and the joy from that little piece of paper. We quickly knew that we were not going to be satisfied with just the communities we were serving, we needed more. It was also about this time that the local Bay News 9 got wind of what we were doing and did a story on our program.
Fortunately our connection with The Senior Care Group provided us credibility to approach other communities who started to let us in to see their residents as well. Linda was not working at the time and I was spending my lunch and after work hours delivering cards. Were we going to be able to do it all alone? Probably not. Plus, we needed more cards decorated and how in the world were we going to find the time to do that? We knew we had to put the need out into the universe. We did and it delivered in a big way.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.