Cards of encouragement

Pictured are poems and bookmarks included in a surprise package for Elk County seniors.

ST MARYS — Elk County parents and other community members came together recently to send hundreds of “cards of encouragement” to 2020 seniors.

Patricia Greene has a passion for youth, she said, having been the leader of a youth group called “814 generation” that meets once a week. Several in the group were excited it was going to be their senior year.

When the pandemic began to escalate, Greene began to brainstorm.

“I heard about these young adults missing school, the prom, their last sports games, last days with friends, plays, senior trips and their senior skip day,” she said.

She talked to one very upset mother, Tammy Barnett.

“I said let’s do something simple — let’s send out cards to the seniors in Elk County,” she said. “That’s how it all started.”

Barnett formed the “Elk County High School Seniors — Cards of Encouragement” Facebook page, and the two began to gather addresses and pictures.

“It grew so fast,” she said. “There were so many people feeling the same way.”

The pictures were pouring in and Greene decided it would be great to turn them into movies. Around 355 seniors received a card, a bookmark and a letter with the link to view the movie about their school.

All of the cards were signed “With love, your devoted Elk County family and friends,” and were a surprise to the seniors.

The response from the community was inspiring, with people offering to help with cards, stamps or covering the cost of mini CDs. Liz Boni of Ridgway contributed a poem.

Greene, a two-time breast cancer survivor, who lost her son, Danny, in May 2014, said, “My community, family, friends and strangers pulled me up and helped me through those dark times.

“My faith in God,” she continued, “has continued to keep me strong and full of his love. We all have a choice — we can sit in our sadness and darkness and dwell on the pain, or we can turn it around.”

The effort lifted spirits all around the county, Greene says.

“So many people came together to make this a beautiful experience,” she said. “I am so proud to be a part of this amazing community I call home.”

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