Students Create Over 600 Cards for Senior Citizens

Students Create Over 600 Cards for Senior Citizens
By: Jeff Vorva, Daily Southtown

As the director of public relations of Bremen High School District 228, part of Jamie Bonnema’s job is to brag to the world about the students from Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Hillcrest and Bremen high schools.

Most of the time, she is tipped off by teachers, coaches or administrators on the accomplishments and good deeds of the students.

But this winter, she had a chance to see firsthand how thoughtful they are after the annual senior citizen luncheon at the four schools had to be canceled this year because of coronavirus concerns, pausing a tradition that started more than 30 years ago.

“The lunches are something seniors look forward to,” Bonnema said. “I actually get phone calls and our secretaries get calls in early September with seniors asking when they are going to get their invites. You can really tell that they enjoy it.”

Bonnema said she still wanted to do something to reach out to the seniors, so she requested students to make up their own holiday cards. Because students were at home learning rather than at school, she wasn’t expecting a lot of cards. But she figured that any amount of mail would be a help.

When it was time for her to collect the letters and cards at drop-off points from each school, she said she was surprised to find 605 cards and letters were ready for her to send out into the communities.

The project left her busy and happy. And once again, it gave her a chance to brag to the world about the district’s students.

“I was shocked that I saw that many cards,” she said. “I honestly thought just a couple of people would participate. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and we’re not even in school. These kids had to drive to drop the cards off and had to go the extra effort. I was not expecting that at all.

“When I started seeing some of the cards, they weren’t just letters written on loose-leaf paper. They colored their pages. Every page had a drawing on it. They put stickers on them. Yeah, I was amazed. The kids are so good. That’s the best word I can think of. They are the most selfless, kind kids.”

Bonnema said the D228 community would typically go all out for the luncheons. Each school had its band playing, choir singing and students and staff serving and baking food. Crafts and bingo were also a part of the festivities. She estimated 130-200 seniors would show up to each school for the events.

The students went the extra mile on the cards as well. Tinley Park freshman Jade Cross was not around for the luncheons that her school hosted in previous years, but she still wanted to make sure that whomever received her card would enjoy it.

“I tried to write a thankful and loving letter,” Cross said. “It’s been a rough year. They especially need some positive letters. I tried to make sure it wasn’t some kind of quick card that said, ‘hope you all have a happy holiday.’ If they weren’t, they would be like ‘yeah, right.’ I tried to add some nice words and some funny stuff to make them laugh.”

Bonnema said several students put in lots of extra effort.

“Some of the artistic students had beautiful cards drawn in colored pencils,” she said. “Some constructed their own pop-up cards. Some wrote very long letters. Some provided digital art. It was great. They did all of the work. I just stuffed the envelopes.”

The public relations specialist said even in an era when letter writing is becoming a lost art, receiving something in the mail aside from bills is still fun for people.

Cards were sent out in mid-December to senior citizens in Posen, Midlothian, Markham, Oak Forest, Tinley Park, Hazel Crest and Country Club Hills.

“I received a present in the mail from San Diego and it brightened my whole day,” she said. “People love getting Christmas cards in the mail. It’s gratifying. I don’t know if these students know how much these cards are going to mean to someone but they mean a lot.”