The lockdowns on assisted living and nursing homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic brought extra hardships to the residents of those facilities. One Knoxville woman turned her wish to make life better for seniors during the long months of isolation into a full job.
Farragut resident Ashley Lynch is the founder, director and CEO of Send Senior Citizens Love (SSCL), a non-profit that focuses on sending cards and gift boxes to residents in care facilities.
“I call it Happy Mail,” Lynch said of the packages that contain cards, sugar-free candy, skin care and other hygiene items. And socks. Don’t forget the socks.
“They’re just filled with small things that they love,” she said.
Lynch said she was inspired to do this, on the cusp of the pandemic, due to her love for her grandparents and her appreciation for the wonderful care they both received at Ben Atchley Tennessee State Veterans Home. She lost them both in 2019, just six months apart.
“Not all of the residents would regularly get visitors, or cards or presents,” she said. “I wanted to change that. My grandparents were a major part of my life, so I decided since I couldn’t take care of mine anymore, I’d take care of everyone else’s. We cannot forget about those who took care of us.”
Lynch acknowledges that getting off the ground was a “huge learning curve” in terms of what she needed to do to start and run a non-profit. But what started small has grown to where she is not just delivering gift-boxes around Knoxville and East Tennessee, but shopping nationally and internationally. She officially launched in April of last year.
“I just want to keep the momentum going,” she said. “I want to see every senior smile.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. WATE recognized her as a local HERO. She even drew the attention of Mike Rowe, famous for his shows “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.” Rowe reached out to Lynch for his “Returning the Favor” podcast that features people following their passions and doing good in the neighborhood as a result.
“Honestly, at first, I thought it was a joke,” she said. “But, no, it was really him.”
That interview also translated into a $10,000 donation from Rowe for Lynch to continue her work. Watch the episode here.
A 2008 graduate of Farragut High School, both of Lynch’s parents also attended Farragut. Though she did attend Pellissippi State for a couple of years, she began working in security and property management right out of high school.
“I was making good money in it, so I just kept going with it,” she said. “I gave it 12 years. It was a great experience, and I made contacts I’ll always be thankful for.”
But as of this past spring, she is now her own boss with SSCL. Right now, she is busy with two upcoming fund-raisers, a movie night at McGill Park in Farragut this Saturday, July 24, and a golf tournament on August 2 at Gettysvue Polo, Golf and Country Club. She’s looking forward to organizing more events, raising more funds, and hopefully expanding her Christmas gift deliveries for the upcoming season. Last year, she delivered 1,000 gifts for area seniors.
“This is a good cause,” she said. “I don’t want to be rich. I just want to make them smile and make them happy.”
So, keep the cards and letters coming.