Operation Valentine is a national program in which thousands of volunteers will produce valentines and other notes of gratitude to U.S. service members stationed overseas. Here in Urbana, Walter & Lewis Funeral and Cremation Services is spearheading the movement with help from fourth and fifth graders at East Elementary School participating in the Great Kindness Challenge.
This is the first year that Frank Lewis has sponsored the program from both his businesses in Urbana and Springfield, but he says Operation Valentine has been ongoing for eight or nine years in other places. He has coordinated with schools, churches and the senior center to create valentines and is working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to find a suitable unit to receive the valentines.
“We have a history of being big fans of veterans,” he said. “We have a lot of veterans programs, we offer them discounts as our way of saying thank you to them for their service to our country… and then we’ve donated over $40,000 to local veteran’s organizations in the last eight years. We basically paid for the VFW patio recently, as an example. We do veteran indigent burials for free to make sure they get the service they deserve.”
Anybody who wishes to participate is requested to drop off their valentines at Walter & Lewis Funeral & Cremation Services, 642 S. Main St., Urbana, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, before Feb. 5. Valentines may not contain glitter. For more information, call 937-653-4227.
Great Kindness Challenge
Students at Urbana East Elementary School are assisting Operation Valentine by producing decorative hearts and writing notes on them. This is the first time elementary school students have made valentines for veterans, but the third year this school has participated in the Great Kindness Challenge.
“It is one week that is devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible” said principal Jill Weimer. “Thousands of schools across the United States and the world are participating, and the numbers continue to grow each year. This is the third year that East has participated. Each student was given a checklist to work on 50 kind acts, and students have accepted those challenges and are doing those. I’ve seen teachers receive flowers, I’ve seen a nurse receive a thank you note, I received a couple apples yesterday that are still on my desk, so there are lots of different acts of kindness being shared.
“Walter & Lewis Funeral Home reached out to us, and so we thought it would just be another way that we could share an act of kindness,” she said. “It’s having our kids help others outside of East. It’s great to show and spread our kindness here, but we also wanted to be able to spread it beyond East Elementary, and so Operation Valentine fit well with doing that across the United States and the world. Our kids are also collecting coins for hurricane relief to help rebuild playgrounds that were destroyed in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, so we’re collecting coins that will be sent to this organization, The Great Kindness Challenge.”
The Great Kindness Challenge is a non-profit organization co-founded in 2006 by Kids For Peace. In 2017 over 10 million students participated in over 90 countries.
“I think we try to teach kindness every single day, but trying some different ways and making it a special emphasis for a week is good for kids,” Weimer said. “They watched a video about how their coins are going to help building these playgrounds, so we’re trying to help build that kindness and compassion in them in a variety of different ways. So this just gives us another way to focus this week.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304