Front Porch Senior Living resident Lavelle Black spends her days at the assisted living facility playing cards, shooting hoops and helping prepare meals, but one thing she missed was receiving mail.
A look into the facility's mailbox today tells a different story: Black and the other residents now receive cards every day from far and wide thanks to the spread of a Facebook post by owner and administrator Angela Bell.
"Lavelle is a very engaging person, and when I go to the mailbox I always make a big deal of it, even if it's just junk mail," Bell said. "When we didn't get anything, she'd say, 'I didn't get any mail?' and feel down about it. I said, 'I can't let this happen,' so I went on Facebook and posted about the situation ... I talked about all the residents here and asked people to write to them."
Since the post was created on Sept. 16, it has been shared more than 730 times and seen letters addressed to residents from unlikely places.
"All of a sudden, we started getting mail," Bell said. "It was local at first, but then letters came from Lebanon, Alabama, Michigan ... the other day, we even got a package from Germany with all these goodies for everyone."
That package came from an active duty soldier, and Bell hopes to start a project for the residents to write back to him. They have also been responding to cards and letters from children, like a classroom at Station Camp Elementary that wrote to the group for an assignment.
"Lavelle absolutely loves getting letters, especially from kids," Bell said. "We get pictures, paintings ... but she really loves the ones with jokes and she'll read them again and again. It's amazing, the support people have given us."
Although the inspiration for the letters came from Black, the home's other residents are receiving their share of mail.
"It's interesting, because I don't know these people or what they're saying some of the time," resident Robert Jennings Sr. said. "I like the kids that write them, but it's hard expressing yourself to someone you don't know, or they don't know."
Jennings' favorite letters are the ones where children ask him questions, since they set the topic of conversation and help him communicate more.
"I feel good about getting cards in the mail," resident Opal Simpson said. "I don't know how many ... it makes me feel good, but I ain't much on writing."
Cards from across the country are displayed on one of the home's doors, and reading the mail has become a regular activity for the residents - one that works toward Bell's vision of creating a home environment.
"We got licensed on June 5, and my goal is to let people know they have options," she said. "You don't have to go right to one of the big assisted living facilities or nursing homes."
Front Porch Senior Living has space for six residents, and operates out of a traditional suburban home.
"The help with cooking and cleaning up if they want to, or they can sit and watch TV," Bell said. "Lavelle really likes setting the table and helping take care of Opal ... they went to church together, and Opal actually used to babysit Lavelle."
The residents also enjoy playing games like Uno, solving puzzles and even playing a bit of basketball.
"Robert really likes to play chess, so we've started doing that and everyone is learning the game," Bell said. "We also installed a basketball goal outside ... Robert has been shooting hoops the past few days, and Lavelle does too because she used to play basketball in high school. Anything we can do to keep them engaged and active is a plus."
Bell is thankful for the support from people inside and outside of the community, and encourages anyone interested to keep writing to the residents (envelopes can be addressed to 115 Sunset Place in Portland).
"It's a wonderful, overwhelming feeling, and we enjoy seeing them happy," she said. "I really big about moments, and in those moments they're excited. It's humbling to see how many people are willing to reach out and show their love and support."