Especially during the COVID-19 quarantine of the past several weeks, Becky McLaughlin has been sharing her talents, creativity, community spirit (and ample shoe leather) with her Westbrook Subdivision neighbors in Cross Lanes and the residents of a Teays Valley assisted living facility.
On both special and everyday occasions, McLaughlin hand-delivers gift packages and notes with candy, crafts she makes and other items she purchases and prepares, designed to brighten the stay-at-home statuses of her friends and neighbors.
McLaughlin said she was inspired to make the gift bags a few years ago by her mother, who died three months ago, shortly before the coronavirus social shutdowns were started.
“My mother was in an assisted-living facility for nine-and-a-half years,” McLaughlin explained, “and I became involved in crafting with the ladies there. I would do all the cutting and they would paste. We’d have the best time. Whatever they made, I’d hang on the walls for everyone to see. They seemed to enjoy it so much and were proud of what they’d done. It just warmed my heart.
“I just started making extras. I have wonderful neighbors and live in a wonderful subdivision,” she said. “I would make a few extra and take them around the neighborhood and to a few church members who can’t get out much.
“They’re just silly, funny things, but they seem to bring the neighbors some joy in their newspaper mailbox.”
McLaughlin has also made gift packages for her fellow crafters in Teays Valley during the crisis, arranging for their safe pickup and delivery.
“It’s something I love to do,” said McLaughlin. “I’m not really artistic like my mother was. All I can do is cut and paste. I enjoy doing that and it appears to make people smile. And I’m the best customer at Dollar Tree right now.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, McLaughlin has made paper cutouts of herself (wearing a protective mask) to give to her neighbors, along with other goodies.
She distributed 25 “Let’s Blow Away This Virus”-themed packages on May 5, each a Ziploc bag with Hershey’s Kisses (to blow a kiss), tissues (blow your nose), a pair of math problems (to blow your mind) and other small, whimsical keepsakes.
McLaughlin leaves gifts outside a dozen or so neighbors’ homes and prepares a couple dozen or more packages for the assisted living facility residents.
In her subdivision, “I hold up signs saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you,’ stand at the door and wave and blow kisses.”
“I call her our Daily Mailbox and Lamppost Whisperer,” neighbor and gift package beneficiary George Webb said. “Her creations always seem to show up when you need a lift in your spirit. During the COVID-19 days, her whisper visits are even more appreciated.”
A retired Sissonville High School teacher, McLaughlin and her husband, Carl, reside on Ashbrook Road in Cross Lanes.
She said she hopes, once social safety restrictions are rescinded fully, to throw a post-coronavirus party for the neighborhood as well.
“I don’t want to stop after this [situation] is over,” she said. “I want to work with my ladies in Teays Valley again.”