Residents become secret Valentine’s Day ninjas for seniors

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — On Feb. 13, Marci DiGaetano posted a question on the Facebook group West Orange 07052: “Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and I was wondering what if anything is being done for the seniors in our community? I think it would be a great idea to show them some love.” Thirty-two comments later and there was an organized and fully executed plan to deliver baskets of goodies and flowers to Renna House, Degnan House and Woodland Views, where nearly 450 seniors reside in town.

Several West Orange residents contributed to the efforts. DiGaetano organized and purchased all the edibles, making basket arrangements filled with holiday cheer. Micaela Bennett assisted with flowers for the seniors and, with the help of Kerry Burdek, got all three deliveries accomplished by the early afternoon so that, as the seniors went for their mail, they would find a sweet surprise from their secret admirers. Giancarlo Cefalo, recovering from surgery, contributed financially.

According to organizers though, it was really the enlightenment that Rosary Morelli provided over coffee that really gave the idea life. Morelli, DiGaetano and Bennett had met for coffee the weekend before Valentine’s Day and Morelli shared her ideas for how West Orange seniors could stand to receive more attention, inspiring DiGaetano and Bennett.

From this meeting, Operation Love Ninja Secret Senior Admirers was born. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Some of the best results, according to organizers, were surprised smiles from seniors who saw the deliveries in action, sweet messages of appreciation on Facebook, and conversations filled with heartfelt love and appreciation for the intergenerational effort. There are already plans under way to make this an annual event and include free secret admirer “Love Grams” — or “Gramps” — to any West Orange senior.

Photos Courtesy of Micaela Bennett