For the past decade, the arrival of February has meant that Mountain View's Girl Scout Troop 61513 pays a visit to Redwood Villa Retirement Home to make valentines with the residents, play games and spend some time together. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the troop's valentines for seniors event, and despite the pandemic, the tradition not only carried on -- albeit in a different form -- but it also grew significantly.
The troop adapted its annual Valentine's event to be socially distanced and safe for its friends at Redwood Villa but also decided to share the love by inviting all their fellow Mountain View Girl Scout troops — around 300 scouts altogether — to join them in making valentines to give away. Through their combined efforts, the Girl Scouts made about 700 valentines to be given to seniors and veterans in assisted living facilities and local organizations that serve people in need.
"We invited all of the troops in Mountain View, so we had kindergarteners through 12th graders writing letters and writing valentines. It just runs the gamut," said Mendy Thijssen, Girl Scouts' leader support manager for the Mountain View area, and a leader of Troop 61513, who coordinated the project.
Thijssen collected the hundreds of valentines in a box on her porch and passed them along to assisted living facilities and other organizations, such as Community Services Agency and the Menlo Park VA (Veterans Affairs) Medical Center, for distribution to residents and clients.
Depending on their ages, the Girl Scouts created valentines that ranged from hand-drawn pictures to longer messages wishing the recipients well.
"One that I thought was so cute said, 'I hope you're getting a chance to do Zoom and FaceTime with your family,'" Thijssen said.
Among the creative missives the scouts crafted were valentines made using an origami pattern in which a heart-shaped piece of paper is folded to become its own envelope. Thijssen's troop also decorated small boxes to hold the seniors' valentines. The troop purchased the boxes using some of last year's cookie sales money, Thijssen said.
Unlike past years, there were no in-person visits to deliver valentines, and the handmade cards and notes had to be completed early in February so that they could be quarantined for more than a week before being given to recipients, who are at higher risk for the coronavirus.
Despite the lack of face-to-face time this year, Thijssen said she has heard positive feedback from the facilities and organizations that received the Girl Scouts' valentines.
"It was just really well received. Because I think that people are pretty isolated — with good reason for COVID and being at higher risk. So, I just love that (chance to make) a connection. I think multi-generational connection is so important," Thijssen said.
Individual troop traditions aren't the only scouting activities affected by the pandemic, she noted. Plans are moving ahead for a virtual "Camporee" this spring. The event, usually a big campout that draws Girl Scout troops from around the region, will take place online this year. And at this time of year, Girl Scouts are usually found selling cookies at tables set up in front of stores and shops — a significant fundraiser for the organization, Thijssen said — but with the pandemic, cookie sales have had to move online. Cookies are being sold using a platform where each scout has a website through which to sell cookies. Thijssen said anyone looking for Girl Scout Cookies can visit the website ILoveCookies.org to purchase the treats from a local Girl Scout.