Nearly 40 vehicles paraded up and down Village Green Lane Tuesday, honking their horns and blasting music as part of a national trend in support of senior and long term care facilities.

Even during a global pandemic, love appears to be the unifying language.

While social distancing guidelines and a protective face covering kept her from verbally expressing her thanks, Ella Dickerson, a Medilodge of Monroe resident, extended her thumb, index finger and pinky – the universal sign for “I love you” – as cheer rolled though by the carloads.

Dickerson, along with most of the nursing home’s residents who were healthy and willing, watched as a caravan of nearly 40 vehicles paraded up and down Village Green Lane, honking their horns and blasting uplifting music to bring joy to those isolated in Monroe County’s long term care facilities amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Also unable to rely on verbal communication, the procession decorated its vehicles with signs reading, “We love you,” or “We’re in this together,” picking up on the caravan trend that’s been gaining popularity as a way to safely connect with neighbors, host birthday parties and even assemble for protests.

“I loved it with all of my heart,” Dickerson told The Monroe News following the parade. “It showed us that people care about us. It almost makes me want to tear up.”

The Stronger Together Huddle, a group that developed from the Women’s March on Washington in 2016, organized the event along with youth input from “Monroe Strong,” a group of middle school students who either attend or previously attended Meadow Montessori School.

Groups such as the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), Monroe County Opportunity Program, St. Joseph Cemetery and Monroe Bee Club also joined in the parade which circled through the IHM campus Tuesday morning before also visiting Medilodge and Fountainview of Monroe Senior Living – all of which have isolated its residents in response to the COVID-19 threat.

“This was beautiful,” said Deborah Facen, a Norman Towers resident. “It helps that depression we are going through, you know we all are. This makes me so happy. We love the support we have here.”

Nursing home residents not only are at high risk for contracting the potentially fatal respiratory illness, in part due to age and also a likelihood for preexisting health conditions, but are among those especially susceptible for loneliness.

Usually a place for residents to connect with other older adults, long term care facilities have limited seniors’ contact with peers as well as suspended visitation with family and friends.

“I thought the Huddle would love to participate in this, especially for the people that are isolated, lonely and fragile,” said Sharon McNeil, co-organizer. “They need that extra support.”

While in some ways COVID-19 has resulted in widespread loneliness, it also has been described as the “great equalizer,” something that’s connecting humans that otherwise would be characterized by their differences.

In fact, even bees, chickens, dinosaurs and unicorns showed up to the parade, as many participants dressed in fun inflatable outfits to bring a smile to the community. They stayed in character, too, with the feathered friend “laying” eggs – leftover plastic Easter eggs – as it marched through the parade.

“Boy, you could see the joy,” McNeil said. “I’m glad people felt loved and appreciated… “I know there were a number of people in the cars that haven’t been out either, so this brought them joy, too. People were just so happy. They went all out, they really did.”

Participants seemed to enjoy the parade as much as the spectators, organizers said, because many also have been self-isolating and enjoyed the time being able to safely gather with one another.

McNeil said she hopes the event will encourage other parades to crop up, even if they’re on a smaller scale, since volunteers now know how to organize the event and already have signs made.

“It was a very touching experience, watching people wave, seeing our staff and sisters and people in the other nursing homes waving when they could barely lift a hand,” said Sister Camille Brouillard. “It was so good to do something positive for the most vulnerable and sometimes forgotten.”

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This is among the news and features The Monroe News is making available for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. You can find other news and announcements at our coronavirus special section.

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