Perry Lutheran Homes Receives 2021 Public Trust Award

The Public Trust award is given to an organization that goes beyond its health service or housing role to advance public trust and confidence by supporting and/or improving the greater community demonstrating the organization’s commitment to mission and social responsibility. Perry Lutheran Homes won the award for helping community members find and form lasting connections with “invisible elders” in the community through their unique creation, Project Deliver the Love.

“Project Deliver the Love is truly an award for the community of Perry. Because of people, congregations, businesses and service organizations in our community stepping up to volunteer, donate and deliver the love, this project was an incredibly successful and impactful; even more than we could have ever imagined,” shares Mollie Clark, Marketing Director for Perry Lutheran Homes. “So many people were positively impacted by this project, and it really shines a light on the elderly people in our community to celebrate and serve and do everything we can to bring more joy into their lives.”

Enjoy the video and nomination write-up below!

Award Nomination Write-Up

Elderly loneliness is a silent epidemic affecting the health and well-being of our “invisible elders” living at home or in senior living communities here in Iowa and across the nation. Pre COVID-19 pandemic studies showed that more than 40 percent of those age 65 and over regularly experience loneliness. One study during the pandemic, in June 2020, reported 56 percent feeling isolated. The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic into 2021 only exacerbated the elderly loneliness epidemic.

These feelings of separation, disconnection, loneliness and isolation lead to serious health problems such as depression, weight loss, cognitive decline, increased falls, acceleration of dementia and aging, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, as well as an increased likelihood of death. With social isolation and loneliness in elderly, there isn’t a single part of their life that isn’t affected.

One of Perry Lutheran Homes responses to the elderly loneliness epidemic is “Project Deliver the LOVE.” Inspired by Perry Lutheran Homes StepUp Movement (Serving Together our Elderly with Passion) launched in 2018, the goal of “Project Deliver the LOVE” is to help community members find and form lasting connections with “invisible elders” in the community.

Starting in 2020, Perry Lutheran Homes engaged community members, organizations, businesses, churches and more in finding and submitting names of elderly people they knew over the age of 75 and collecting and donating canned goods, fresh fruit, sweet treats, baskets and more.

On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, over 150 volunteers from the community transformed ordinary items into colorful baskets full of LOVE at the first annual “Project Deliver the LOVE” event. Once the baskets full of fresh fruit, canned goods, sweet treats, prayer crosses, hand-written notes, hearts from our on-site daycare children and more were ready, volunteers hit the streets of Perry and surrounding communities. Over 360 local, elderly men and women received a personal visit and a basket filled with food, encouragement and LOVE. In one day, we were able to reach nearly half of Perry, Iowa’s elderly population age 75 and older. And more importantly, we were able to make them feel loved.

The goal for “Project Deliver the LOVE” is that the connections formed continue beyond the delivery of the basket. This project helps to form connections between elderly people and community members that lead to additional visits, conversations, food, smiles and joy. It can be as simple as stopping by to visit, sending a card, or bringing over a meal. The simplest of things can be the most meaningful helping our elderly community members remember they are loved and not forgotten. And, “Project Deliver the LOVE” is something that can be replicated in any community. Perry Lutheran Homes is working to put together resources and build out a website dedicated for the sole purpose of helping other communities across the U.S. hold a “Project Deliver the LOVE” event.

The impact that “Project Deliver the LOVE” had on both volunteers and elderly basket recipients was life-changing and profound. Volunteers are already planning to re-visit many of the elderly people whom they delivered baskets to. Of the 365 elderly basket recipients, over 100 returned their completed survey with an overwhelming response of joy, gratitude, surprise, and happiness. Several recipients and volunteers were so moved crying tears of joy.

Some of our volunteer responses were: "The people I delivered baskets to were so surprised to receive one. I told them that someone thought of them and signed them up for a basket. I told them they were loved. Each one of them had a huge smile on their face and were so excited." “I saw how ’Project Deliver the Love’ brought far more than just a basket of food and other items to elderly folks here in Perry."

And some of our elderly basket recipient responses were: “With COVID it’s been so long since anyone has come to my door. It was a surprise! Thanks to each and every one of you. It really made my day.” “I’m thankful that someone thought of me. Some days I see no one.” “It feels good to be remembered and I like to have visitors. I have ONLY been to doctors’ appointments in almost 1.5 years because of COVID and my health. I very seldom see anyone. It was wonderful to know someone was thinking of me.”

We have a responsibility as senior living communities to advocate for all the elderly people in our community – not just those living in our buildings. And, “Project Deliver the LOVE” is a fun, meaningful and very effective way to bring awareness to the “invisible elderly” people in our communities and engage the community in forming relationships and helping to better meet their needs. “Project Deliver the LOVE” is simply our mission in action. We believe that no elder should ever be lonely, hungry, afraid or forgotten and that it is our responsibility to lead the way in making that a reality for the community of Perry, IA and far beyond.