A few days before her 95th birthday, Eva Pettingill received a heartfelt gift.
Pettingill’s nurse, Sally Wolfe, gave her a valentine made by a Penns Valley Elementary School pupil named Harley. Sitting at her kitchen table, Pettingill smiled as she admired the pink and purple heart on the card’s cover before her.
“Oh my gosh,” she said. “Oh my, isn’t that dear?”
Her early Valentine’s Day card, bearing the message “You are thought of today with ... love,” was one of more than 200 given to local Centre HomeCare patients. The pupils decorated pre-printed cards for nurses to present.
Centre HomeCare, a home care provider, each year picks a local elementary school to make the valentines, said Kurt Knauff, a community liaison.
Knauff said the cards brighten the lives of homebound patients who may have few visitors. His company, Knauff said, organizes the effort to link generations and help children realize that some people struggle with their health.
“We just try to make that connection, and it’s really nice,” Knauff said. “I know the patients seem to appreciate it.”
Centre HomeCare nurses also get a kick out of giving the valentines, Knauff said.
“I see how it affects everyone involved with it,” he said.
At Penns Valley Elementary, teacher Beth Houser said she likes having her third-grade class do community service projects, such as the one last year for the Centre County PAWS shelter. A student’s father, a Millheim veterinarian, agreed to provide window space for a display publicizing the shelter and asking for donations.
“That means a lot when we can think about others rather than ourselves, make their world a little bigger than our classroom,” Houser said.
Before breaking out their pencils and crayons for two batches of cards, Houser’s 22 pupils discussed their participation.
“We talked about having some residents in the community who don’t have the means or ability to be out and about, and we wanted to make a difference in their lives,” Houser said.
Her class got the message.
Megan Zehr said the valentines she and her classmates colored were “to make people happy when they’re stuck at home.”
Blue dominated Amanda Bohn’s heart design and lettering because it could be someone’s favorite color, she said.
For her design, Allison Sailors went with a lot of green, “a light and happy color.”
“I hope (people) think it’s supposed to make them happy, and they feel good about themselves, even though they can’t get out for the holiday,” Allison said.
Until two years ago, Pettingill daily swam laps at the Welch Community Swimming Pool during the summer. But the former Penn State audio-visual aide and State College Area High School cafeteria worker isn’t as spry as before.
Still, her verve showed as she cheerfully reminisced about her State High days in the company of her daughter, Patricia Lockheart, and Wolfe.
On this day, Pettingill sat surrounded by love.
Her daughter brought a heart-shaped box of chocolates. On behalf of her mother, she also gave Wolfe a Scottish terrier-themed bag of goodies for the nurse’s Scottie, a frequent visitor.
Wolfe, a nurse for 32 years, said she considers Pettingill’s family part of her own. She joked with her patient of two years as if with a longtime friend.
“I’ve been around the block,” Wolfe said. “I’m getting old.”
Quipped Pettingill: “If you’re getting old, then I wonder what I’m getting.”
But kindness never grows old. Though she had plenty of affection, Pettingill appreciated one more token.
She thanked her small benefactor.
“I like this card,” she said. “I think it’s pretty. I enjoyed it. I never got too many cards in my life.”