MOUNT LAUREL, N.J., Dec. 2, 2019 – A handwritten card has a special way of creating a connection and bringing a smile to the recipient’s face. Such was the reasoning behind a partnership between Laurel Brook Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Mount Laurel, and Matthew’s Hallmark Shop’s of Moorestown for the “Smiles for Seniors” program.

More than 110 handwritten cards were recently delivered to residents – including Sharon Freeman (pictured) – at the skilled nursing facility, which is a Marquis Health Services member.

“Hallmark’s ‘Smiles for Seniors’ program is all about connecting community members and transcending generations,” said Stacey Downs CDP, CADDCT, clinical liaison at Laurel Brook, who coordinated the program with Jessica Saracen, the facility’s director of community relations, and Melissa Mangiaracina, manager of Matthew’s Hallmark. “It was so touching to see the expressions on our residents’ faces as they read the cards.”

For the last few months, Matthew’s Hallmark featured a “Smiles for Seniors” card display at the front of its store. Customers purchased the special cards at a nominal fee and wrote notes to residents at Laurel Brook who had volunteered to participate in the program. The Laurel Brook seniors had provided lists of their hobbies and favorite things, which were shared with the card senders.

Cards included special messages, such as “I’ve been saving up some smiles, and I wanted to give them to you” and “please think of this card as a big hug.” Many people added their names and contact information in case recipients had an interest in becoming pen pals. “We feel truly blessed to have been able to work with Melissa and be a part of Hallmark’s ‘Smiles for Seniors,’” added Downs.

“Our hope with this program is that all the card recipients at Laurel Brook know they are thought of and that they are loved,” said Mangiaracina. “Without the support of so many community members and our entire Hallmark staff, ‘Smiles for Seniors’ would not have been possible. It was a real pleasure to organize the program with Stacey, Jessica and the Laurel Brook team.”

Located at 3718 Church Road, Laurel Brook provides post-hospital care, short-term rehab, memory care, long-term and respite care, and is known for its popular Korean Community wing. Marquis Health Services, which is in the midst of a multi-million-dollar renovation at Laurel Brook, is a recognized leader in providing subacute rehabilitation and skilled nursing care. The organization operates nearly 3,000 beds at 25 Mid-Atlantic and New England properties.