Making valentines spreads love across Hyattsville’s generations
By Sydney Clark
Valentine’s Day love comes in many shapes: velvety red roses, chocolate and restaurant reservations, to name a few. And some of the sweetest are the handmade cards crafted at Hyattsville’s annual valentine-making event.
After a wet and rainy Friday, attendees of all ages gathered on the dry and sunny Saturday morning of Feb. 8 to show their creativity and love for the community’s elderly population.
For two hours, some 90 people turned the Hyattsville Municipal Building’s multipurpose room into a lively workshop as they crafted to the festive notes of the Sligo Creek Recorder Club. Their personal cards and heartfelt letters were destined for Hyattsville Aging in Place’s (HAP’s) clientele.
HAP, a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization, sponsors this Put Art in Your Heart event each year. Participants typically create several hundred cards which are hand-delivered to elderly neighbors, according to the event organizer Suzanne Aloga. At the event’s check-in table, HAP pamphlets, brochures and a volunteer sign-up list appeared next to name tags and markers.
“It’s a way for people to get familiar with what we’re doing,” said Aloga in a recent phone interview.
HAP, which began in 2011, provides services for Hyattsville residents over 60 years old in an effort to help them remain in their homes and stay active in the community as they age, according to the organization’s website. Some of the services offered include rides to appointments, yard work and home visits.
Jeanne Benas, a HAP board member who attended Saturday’s event, is an active volunteer who enjoys spending time with her elderly neighbors.
Benas described taking a couple to a doctor’s appointment. They arrived at the health facility and discovered that they were at the wrong location.
“The daughter made the appointment, and they were all kind of arguing with each other, which was sort of entertaining,” said Benas. “We were in Riverdale, and the appointment was actually in Takoma Park, and they felt so guilty that I had to go and drive them over.”
Benas reassured the couple that she is retired and often uses her free time to serve others in the area.
“It’s a good opportunity to meet other people, and it makes you think about what you need to worry about as you get older,” said Benas.
She invited her friend Nancy Seeger to come to the Put Art in Your Heart event. Seeger said she eagerly accepted Benas’s invitation.
“I’m from D.C., but I’m meeting all of these new people in Maryland,” said Seeger. “It’s just a good way to get together, meet people and also do something for somebody.”
Andrea Savoye, who lives in Silver Spring, joined Seeger and Benas at one of the roundtables in the multipurpose room to make valentines. Savoye came to the event last year and enjoyed it.
“I’m a little artistic. It’s fun getting my glue stick on,” said Savoye.
Each year, Put Art in Your Heart coincides with the Hyattsville Horticulture Society’s garden fair and seed sale on the second floor of the Hyattsville Municipal Building. Aloga said that this partnership encourages people to participate in both activities. Locals Josh and Amanda King took advantage of the timing, making a few valentine cards before heading upstairs to the seed sale.
Hyattsville City Police Department Chief Amal Awad stopped by the event to greet families and stayed to make some valentines, too.
Awad said events like Put Art in Your Heart underscores the city’s sense of community. She also emphasized how the event supports Hyattsville’s seniors.
“This may … be the only Valentine’s Day card [some of our seniors] receive, and it speaks to everyone’s character in this room making valentines, both young and old,” she said.
For more information about Hyattsville Aging in Place or how to get involved, visit hyattsvilleaginginplace.org.