Roanoke Valley organization gives thanks through kindness cards campaign

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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — One Roanoke Valley organization is spreading compassion by giving residents the chance to write kindness cards.

Cheri Hartman is one Roanoke resident who is dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” by creating hearts and hoping the smiles they bring will stick. 

“To spread kindness, helps you overcome that sense of that the world is out of control and there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Hartman.

Miles away, Jackie Bledsoe, another Roanoke resident, is right there with her. She tells WFXR News that she’s coming up with fun ways to say, ‘thank you.’

Whatever comes to me, I do,” said Bledsoe. “It’s cathartic for me. When I sit here and do this, I don’t think about anything else.”

These kindness cards started in the summer of 2020.

“We just wanted to give some special heartfelt messages that people could create,” said Sheila Lythgoe, Community Prevention Initiatives Coordinator for Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.

Each time, Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare chooses a group of unsung heroes during the pandemic. 

“This is just a way to give back to the people who have been impacted the most,” Lythgoe said.

Hundreds of cards are hand-delivered to their destination. This time, the cards are going to Roanoke County Public Schools. 

 “It’s just so special, it’s heartwarming. It really is so nice to appreciate people for all their efforts,” said Karen Garlow, Supervisor for Counseling at Roanoke County Public Schools. 

Garlow delivered the cards directly into the hands of heroes, feeding students all year long. 

“It’s a nice surprise. We will probably pin them up somewhere so when the kids come back, they can see them,” said Nutrition Manager Julie Brock.

Over the course of just one year, nutrition workers served more than one million meals in the Roanoke County School District

At Glenvar Elementary School alone, nutrition workers went from serving 60 students a day for lunch to 200 students a day. 

Brock knows their work matters, and she makes sure her staff knows that. 

“I said you are not just a lunch lady, you need to know your worth, we are heroes to the kids, many of them just don’t get to eat,” Brock said.

She says those kids thank them every day but now strangers are letting them know they’re appreciated.

It’s exactly what Hartman hoped for.

“I’m doing at least a little bit toward making the world a better place, a kinder place, more unified and less strident to live in,” she said. 

After all, it’s the one thing she can control: using her time and creativity to make others smiles with just a little bit of kindness. 

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