Meet the Woman Behind the Tulip Project, an Effort That Brings Joy to Isolated Seniors Nationwide
Meghan Regan was inspired to send cards and care packages to a nursing home in her community, but her efforts soon expanded to the whole country. Here's how you can help, too.
Throughout the new coronavirus pandemic, self-isolation has been difficult for almost everyone, and it’s hit seniors in assisted living facilities especially hard. Most homes shut their doors early on, and many haven’t been allowing visitors (or limited family members to window visits), so many facilities have been looking for pen pals and accepting flower donations to brighten their residents' days. At the beginning of the pandemic, Meghan Regan, who lives in Albany, New York, saw a Facebook post from a staff member at a local nursing home asking for cards to bring some joy to their seniors. She reached out and learned that there were 160 residents who were isolated in their rooms and couldn’t have visitors, so Regan decided to provide cards for each one of them.
Regan started by enlisting her friends and family for help making 160 cards and crafts for the residents, but she ended up with even more than she needed. “The word got out to more of the community and I started receiving items from complete strangers,” Regan says. In just three days, she collected over 200 cards and craft projects to send to the home. “I quickly realized how many people were willing to help and I started brainstorming how we could help more homes.”
To organize everyone who wanted to help, Regan created a Facebook group called the Tulip Project (because tulips represent hope). Currently, it has over 900 members from all over the country who have contributed cards, crafts, coloring books, games, CDs, and more to help spread joy to seniors. Since she first heard about the need for cards back in March, Regan has collected and delivered care packages to 17 different nursing homes, reaching more than 2,000 residents.
Regan has also included something to show appreciation for the staff at each facility, too. “With every delivery, we’ve dropped off a meal or dessert from a local shop to the incredible frontline heroes that keep the residents safe, healthy, and happy,” she says.
Now, Regan’s trying to bring the Tulip Project to all 50 states. Her goal is to send at least one care package to a nursing home in each state by the end of the summer. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t slowing down, so I wanted to spread our mission across state lines,” Regan says. “The members of the project never cease to amaze me. They immediately jumped on board and asked how they could help with shipping costs.” The project has already started sending care packages across the country, starting with nursing homes in Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
Part of what’s made the Tulip Project so popular, according to Regan, is how easy it is to get involved and help bring happiness to someone in isolation. “A few cards or window hangings can mean so much to an isolated population,” she says. “It’s a sense of community and feeling like you’re helping others in a time of uncertainty.”
If you want to get involved, you can join the Tulip Project on Facebook; Regan has a P.O. Box listed there for donations, including cards for her to send to residents. You could also help your own community by finding a local nursing home and reaching out to see if they’ll accept donations of cards, letters, or small gifts for the residents. Even something as simple as a surprise homemade card could put a smile on a resident's face!