O.C. Steps Up: The Smiles Project in Irvine Creates Cards for Meals On Wheels Seniors


To help us stay positive during these challenging times of mostly bad news, we’re sharing uplifting stories happening right here in Orange County. Be sure to check out the May issue of Orange Coast for many such profiles; in the meantime, we offer a few tidbits to make you happy now. Check our homepage regularly for O.C. Steps Up—anecdotes about your neighbors doing whatever they can to lift the community.

Branda Lin and Jeanne Baran, creators of The Smiles Project in Irvine, are working hard to spread happiness during quarantine. They teamed with community members to create positive messages to send to seniors that are part of the Meals on Wheels program. This program delivers nutritious meals to those that are unable to purchase or prepare their own.

What inspired you to create this project?
Jeanne Baran: About a week ago, we were scrolling through a bunch of COVID-19 responses and it got us thinking about the seniors. A lot of them are isolated right now and we wanted to find ways we could help bring them joy.

What’s your connection to Meals on Wheels?
Branda Lin: I’m one of the (volunteer) drivers and I also serve as an Irvine Community Service Commissioner. Drivers aren’t allowed to deliver meals to seniors currently. Only city staff are allowed to do it for now. You can imagine how devastating it is for (seniors) to be completely alone at this time.
Baran: We are just trying to do love taps. Just simple, easy activities for the community where they can use whatever they have at home to draw a picture, write a note, or even make a joke. I think everyone’s looking for something happy to do right now. People have been making cards at home and we collect them and give them to Meals on Wheels to be distributed.

What are your goals for the project in the future?
Lin: After this, if it’s successful, we would like to have cards made for our healthcare workers. If it keeps growing, we can send some to grocery store workers. There’s always good we can do for our community and we’re always looking for easy ways to share joy and kindness.
Baran: The older population is our primary focus right now and down the road we would like to continue to keep sending them things like cards and possibly books.

Find Out More!
Visit facebook.com/TheSmilesProjectIrvine

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