What started as a small project four years ago is setting records now, and breaking more than a few hearts of Missoula's senior citizens as complete strangers reach out in love and joy.

And those authors are much, much younger.

The results of the collaboration, which I was shown on the second floor of the Missoula Public Library this week show not only children's creativity but their sense of caring and appreciation for the Garden City's more "experienced" citizens.

"We've been doing this for four years now," Katie Little of the Families First Learning Lab tells me, as we're surrounded by hundreds of handmade Valentine's cards.

"We've been partnering with the Missoula Food Bank and it started out as kind of this small project of helping them get Valentine's to seniors who receive the ROOTS program, food supplies, and it's really grown. As you can see, we have about 800 Valentine's."

No store-bought Valentines here

Families First photo
Families First photo



The cards and other creations were all done by hand, as children across Missoula's schools heard an explanation of the need for the seniors to feel love, and then went to work.

"We visited 35 plus classes," Little estimates. "And it'll total out to be about 800 children that have participated. And really we couldn't do it without the teachers and the children. It's just been such an incredible project."

Little, and her assistant, Jessica Carrol, say the young artists use all their own ideas, drawing and waiting for what they feel older generations need to hear, with messages of joy, love, and appreciation. All told in simple, but profound terms.

"It's really neat because we have a span of kiddos. So these are made by anywhere from, like 2-year-olds all the way up until middle school. And they all have a different way of expressing this same message of love and support and kindness. But it's wonderful."

Carrol says it's hard to read them without getting tears in her eyes.

"Just their level of understanding of kindness for the community and giving to others," she tells me with a smile.  

The effort is all part of the Families' First "Art with a Purpose" program, and Little says everyone is welcome to stop by the library and "spread a little love in the community."

These cards will be distributed early next week. So if your children would like to join in this project, you're welcome to stop by.

READ MORE: Other activities at Missoula's Families First Learning Lab

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