Living through coronavirus: Cards pour into West Chester nursing home to support residents

The 300 residents at a West Chester retirement village grew up during a time when people penned hand-written letters, mailed them, then waited for a response.

Now those who live at Chesterwood Village are once again receiving letters, cards and drawings, but this time from strangers of all ages.

During these unprecedented times of social distancing and sheltering in place because of the coronavirus, West Chester Twp. and the surrounding area have come together to ensure the residents of Chesterwood Village “stay connected to the community.”

The residents have received enough correspondences — hand-written notes, cards and pictures — to fill 13 poster boards that line the facility’s indoor Main Street, said Jane Gegner, director of community relations.

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One easel in front of the coffee shop is full of pictures from school children. Another, beside the movie theatre, is decorated with cards of expressions of thoughtfulness such as “we’re thinking about you,” and “there’s a family down the street that cares about you.”

Gegner said the village has received letters from school children, 4-H members and Butler County churches.

“This keeps everybody in a positive attitude,” she said. “This generation was about sitting down and writing hand-written notes. When they get letters from young people, that means a lot because of the effort that was put forward.”

One picture was simple. It was a flower with the words “be happy.”

Another drawing from a young girl featured her family as stick people. It read: “We love you.”

As Gegner said: “Who wouldn’t enjoy something like that from the children?”

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Dee DeVilliers, 99, the oldest resident in Chesterwood’s independent living suites, certainly appreciates them, especially at a time when no visitors are allowed to visit senior living facilities per orders from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

“I’ve read every one of them, sometimes twice,” DeVilliers said. “These cards and letters lift my spirits. I’m not into technology. I don’t have a computer. So the best way to communicate with me is by phone or these beautiful cards and artwork.”

While macular degeneration is robbing 92-year-old Lloyd Schrum of his eyesight, the World War II and Korean War veteran can view most of the artwork and receives assistance from staff when it comes to reading the words of encouragement.

He especially appreciates the contributions from school children. An educator for decades, he taught machining and welding to high schoolers while his late wife spent some three decades in elementary education.

DeVilliers and Schrum have something in common with many other area senior adults: They grew up on farms where they were used to hard work and living a distance from neighbors. Sheltering in and social distancing come easy to them.

Those interested in sending cards, letters and drawings can address them to Chesterwood Village, 8073 Tylersville Road, West Chester Township, Ohio, 45089 Attn: Reception Desk.


We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email

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