Hita Gupta was heartbroken upon learning her regular visits to nursing homes were put on hold because of coronavirus.
“They told me that I couldn’t visit because they were trying to limit interaction with seniors to prevent the spread,” Gupta told CNN.
The 15-year-old had been volunteering at one facility near her home in Paoli, Pennsylvania, for more than a year – organizing activities like trivia and bingo for the residents.
“The seniors aren’t able to see their families, so that’s causing loneliness, boredom and anxiety,” she said.
And then she thought of her own grandparents.
“They’re in India but I have calls with them on Skype. Even though they’re stuck inside their homes we can speak to them. They (nursing home residents) may not have that option,” Gupta explained.
So she came up with the idea to send goodie bags – each one stuffed with one large print puzzle book, an adult coloring book and coloring pencils.
“The puzzle and coloring books will help nursing home residents stimulate their minds and keep them occupied,” said Gupta.
The packages also include an encouraging note written by her 9-year-old brother, Divit.
“My brother helps me a lot. It’s a lot of work.”
She’s dropped off goodie bags to 18 nursing homes
Gupta coordinates with the nursing homes ahead of time to confirm that the bags can be received safely.
“I call them and say I’m going to leave the boxes outside the front door. They usually leave it out for a few days to make sure there aren’t any germs before passing it out to the residents.”
She has now sent packages to 23 nursing homes in the Philadelphia area.
“Cheering them up makes me happy. Even if it’s just for one day.”
Initially, Gupta was purchasing items with her own allowance, but figured if she wanted to make a larger impact, she would need more money.
As news spread of her good deed, more people wanted to help.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people and people are sharing on social media. They’ve reached out saying ‘you’ve inspired me to do a similar project in my area.’”
The high school sophomore has created a GoFundMe account to help make even more of the thoughtful packages.
“It makes me feel happy that she is able to give back to the community. She’s able to let them know that they’re not alone and there’s a community that stands with them. I am very proud,” Gupta’s mom, Swati, said.
The teen says she will continue doing this until the public health crisis is over.
“Loneliness is now a bigger problem than ever with our pandemic and social distancing guidelines. We need to let nursing home residents know that they are not being forgotten, and that they are not alone. As a community, we need to work together to make seniors feel loved and valued. ”