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Siblings donate “happy packs” to Oceanside Care Center residents

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Three Oceanside siblings have put together care package bags with goodies for residents living at their local nursing home facility.

The Cohen siblings — Sami, 9, Jesse, 13, and Jake, 16 — each decided to help with the effort when they realized that, because of coronavirus, many seniors in assisted living or nursing homes may be lonely without visitors.

“We wanted to do it because we missed our grandma a lot,” Jesse said, “and we kept going back to her apartment building to drop off food and cards. We felt bad for those who couldn't get that.”

So they started doing the same for strangers. Their “happy packs” are paper bags filled with things meant to bring a smile to the seniors’ faces, such as games, arts and crafts, magazines and books. They have donated more than 50 of them to Oceanside Care Center so far.

Russell and Debi Cohen, the children’s parents, said they couldn’t be prouder of them for going out of their way to brighten someone’s day during these difficult times.

“We’re just so happy to spread some happiness during such an awful time,” Debi said.

Nine-year-old Sami, who attends Oceanside School No. 8, felt proud, as well. “It makes me feel really good,” she said, “because I like helping people and since they really didn't have anyone most of the time, they can have these little things, and it makes them really happy.”

Sami had suggested putting coloring books and crayons in the “happy packs,” Russell said. “We thought it was goofy,” he said, “but the activities director [at Oceanside Care Center] said, ‘It’s not as goofy as you think.’ [The seniors] love to get those pictures and post them up as decorations.”

So the siblings also donated colored-in coloring pages, which now hang at the center. Russell and Debi, who are both school teachers, said they hope to get their students in on the initiative to send kids’ artwork to the facility.

The family’s friend also made a card design with their dog, a Shih Tzu named Dunkin, wearing a mask, which she PhotoShopped on the photo. Workers at Oceanside Care Center said the seniors adored it.

“So many residents that live there have no one, even when there’s not a pandemic,” Debi said. “Something like this made them so happy, to see these kids take interest in them.”