Ottawa·Community Heroes

Ottawa woman shows seniors they're loved with hundreds of handmade valentines

Kortney Force challenged her friends and neighbours to make cards for seniors living in long-term care homes. The response proved love is still in the air, even during a pandemic.

Kortney Force collected, delivered cards to residents of 2 long-term care homes

Kortney Force collected and delivered hundreds of handmade valentines to seniors living in long-term care homes this week. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Community Heroes is a CBC Ottawa series highlighting people making a difference in small or big ways in their communities during COVID-19.

Kortney Force's own world has been turned upside down this past year.

"Just like many others, we've been dealing with a lot of grief and loss," said Force, who lost her job when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

After months of struggling to make ends meet, Force, who lives in Ottawa's Woodpark neighbourhood, across Woodroffe Avenue from Carlingwood Shopping Centre, came up with an idea for a special project.

"Something came over me one day and I just thought, I need to do something to give me purpose," she said. 

Everyone's dealing with loneliness right now, and just a simple card made with love can really switch that around.- Kortney Force

With Valentine's Day approaching, Force decided to challenge her friends and Facebook community to make cards for seniors living at Carlingview Manor, a long-term care home across Carling Avenue. 

She said the idea stemmed from her time at a volunteer centre at Algonquin College, where her work included making cards for people in shelters.

"I really wanted to start this project to not only bring love into my world, but also bring love into the world of others," Force said. 

Force set a goal of 220 cards. People responded with double that number. (Submitted by Kortney Force)

Her original goal was 220 cards, one for each resident at Carlingview Manor. She soon had double that number from children, personal support workers and other seniors who answered her call. 

The extras made their way to seniors at New Orchard Lodge near her neighbourhood, and Bayfield Manor in Kemptville, Ont., where they'll be opened on Valentine's Day.

"It's so important that the residents know they're loved during these tough times," said Jane Johnston, director of care at Bayfield Manor.

Force said she's hoping to restore a little "magic in the air" on Valentine's Day, "for not only myself, but my neighbours and those who need it most — the seniors in long-term care."

Students pitch in

Lauren Owens, a special education teacher at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Nepean, said she came across Force's Facebook post and decided to get her class involved. 

"They loved the idea," said Owens. "They have hearts of gold, so they were really excited to do something kind." 

'They have hearts of gold, so they were really excited to do something kind,' Lauren Owens said about her students. (Submitted by Lauren Owens)

Owens said the project helped her students find some positivity at a time when they've been struggling to adapt to COVID-19 measures. One card read: "I hope you see your loved ones soon. We all care about you."

"[Force] said she cried reading the cards my students made," said Owens.

"Their cards are beautiful and they will be loved so much," said Force.

Special delivery

As a gift to herself, Force, who lives with her son, decided to deliver the cards to the long-term care homes on Feb. 10, her birthday. 

"Rather than be stuck inside my home alone without friends and family, I decided to make the donation on my birthday," she said.

Some of the recipients show off their valentines. (Submitted by Ashley Hughes)

Force said the past few weeks have been a joyful journey — one that she badly needed.

"I lost that spark inside me when I lost my job, and part of this is to reignite that spark," she said.

Now she's calling on others to make a card for someone else who may need a little pick-me-up during the pandemic.

"Everyone's dealing with loneliness right now, and just a simple card made with love can really switch that around."

The cards went to seniors living in long-term care homes in Ottawa and Kemptville, Ont. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Do you know a community hero in your neighbourhood? Email us with their story.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now