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Show Us Your Sunshine: United Way’s Daily Dose of Positivity and Pandemic Penpals

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On a daily basis, many people in the Hernando County community turn to The United Way of Hernando County for help, resources and advice. And now, during this challenging and uncertain time, United Way is leading the way as a ‘sunshine supplier’  for the people of Hernando.

A visit to the agency’s Facebook page reveals everyday streams of #UNITEDUpbeats *United Way’s daily dose of positivity*; messages meant to motivate, inspire, and encourage–even as they offer practical advice meant to help people thrive and survive throughout these difficult days. 

“Shake up your routine,” encourages one #UNITEDUpbeats message. “Ride, climb, walk or run for a healthier lifestyle. Stay active. Stay healthy. *United Way’s daily dose of positivity*.”

Another Upbeat message reads, “I hope this note finds you well & lifts your spirit. Just know that someone cares and thinks you are special.”

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Other #UNITEDUpbeats messages provide links to fun family games (found at www.UnitedWayHernando.org/15GamesToPlay) to keep kids and families occupied during long days inside. And folks of all ages can enjoy 19 different activities to do with their family during this global COVID-19 Pandemic, take fun selfies of themselves for Fist Bump Friday, and perform important Check Ins with friends and family members, in accordance with a United Way check in check off list. 

One Upbeat message offers instructions regarding the crafting of protective facemasks. Another features a link to a recording of country music legend and literacy champion Dolly Parton reading “Llama Llama Red Pajama” for her weekly “Goodnight with Dolly” storytime feature. Yet another thanks essential workers for their service. 

“Wow… Just WOW,” the message read. “Thank you to all the essential employees working SO hard to provide a sense of normalcy in our daily lives during this pandemic. We are grateful for YOU!!!”

Now the United Way is calling upon the community to do their part in uplifting the people of Hernando; in particular, those senior citizens who may feel alone and isolated at this time.

In hopes of “inspiring people to stay connected by staying apart”, United Way of Hernando County is encouraging residents to become Pandemic Pen Pals. United Way is actively matching 100 nominated Hernando senior citizens with 100 anonymous pen pal submissions, which consist of positive letters filled with encouraging words and personal stories, artwork, creative poems, or other forms of written correspondence.

“With the uncertainty of COVID-19 permeating daily life, it can be easy to feel isolated from one another. Those most affected by the Stay at Home order are often those most at risk—the senior population,” read a United Way press release. “With approximately 30% of Hernando County’s population being over the age of 65, many residents may feel disconnected during this crisis with active social distancing. Pandemic Pen Pals was created to connect people with a positive message reminding them there is someone out there who cares.”

In support of this heartfelt campaign, Show Us Your ‘Sun’shine is introducing its debut ‘Sun’shine Summons; an opportunity for Hernando Sun readers to spread their own sunshine.

Become a Pandemic Pen Pal:

Visit www.UnitedWayHernando.org/PenPal to send positive words of encouragement. All letters or materials can be typed, handwritten, or uploaded using this webform. United Way will send all submissions and heartfelt words to a senior citizen via USPS. 

Nominate a Senior Citizen:

Anyone who knows of a local family member, friend, or neighbor who could use a little sunshine, nominate them at www.UnitedWayHernando.org/PenPal. United Way will mail them any letters received. All seniors will be kept anonymous, to protect their privacy.

United Way of Hernando County’s Executive Director, Angie Walasek, sees the entire #UNITEDUpbeats program as a conduit for good in the Hernando community.

“During this global pandemic and time of uncertainty, we we’re looking to find a fun and creative way to bring joy to people’s newsfeed and that’s how we came up with #UNITEDUpbeats. Our goal was to post something positive every day and encourage community members to join in and feel connected. #UNITEDUpbeats was created before the stay at home order was put into effect and we feel now more than ever how important it is to stay in touch, even virtually,” she said. “Social distancing and limited interaction with people can be isolating and we just want the community to know we are here for them. Our goal is to continue to engage with the community and share positive promotions and resources. To see our daily dose of positivity, follow United Way of Hernando County on Facebook and look for our #UNITEDUpbeats posts.”

Any readers who choose to answer our ‘Sun’shine Summons by becoming a Pandemic Penpal are encouraged to submit a photo and/or account of their good deed, for inclusion in a future edition of Show Us Your ‘Sun’shine. Send these submissions, along with any other good news, to community reporter Megan Hussey at [email protected].


Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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