June 02, 2020

'Butterflies of Love': Mercy High School Students Offer Help and Hope During the Pandemic

“We are so appreciative of your efforts and caring with your donation of masks and cards for our healthcare team at the Solnit Children’s Center in Middletown. All our frontline workers are so grateful for your compassion and prayers during COVID-19. Forever Mercy Strong.” ~RN’s Nisha T. and Krista Annino Santagata ’92, mother to Brayden ‘23

Kaila Lujambio, a junior at Mercy High School in Middletown, Connecticut, along with a group of friends at the school, started "A Butterfly of Love" service project to provide facemasks, care packages and notes of gratitude to people working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities. They also make cards and deliver them to patients and others who cannot receive visitors.

At Mercy High School, the saying is, “The Circle of Mercy is Timeless.” That the girls who founded A Butterfly of Love project are motivated by Mercy values is clear from the website they created for the project. “[We] want to continue the works of Mercy our community inspires,” the girls say. “This virus does not stop [our] love and care for others...”

Besides Kaila (Class of 2021) and Katie Bogucki ’20, who lead the project, other "butterflies of love" include Gabby Algiere '23, Christina Beaulieu '20, Jess Bogucki '23, Elena Cahill '21, Gabby Grant ’20, Aine Lally '22, Sarah Lynch '23, Julia Nadolski '23, Elisia Pagliuca ’21, Amanda Ross '21, Lindsay Stevenson '20, Madeleine Thompson ’21, and Lillian Wimler ’21.

Anyone can visit the website to request care packages and/or donate to them. Depending upon the recipient’s need and the regulations where they live or work, a care package may include a combination of these items: disposable 3-ply face masks, “care cards” including personal messages for patients and/or workers, Butterflies of Love mandalas (colored by hand), gift cards from local businesses, and personalized cards and messages from those who have donated items to the project. Each Butterfly of Love package includes a label that says:
While we are apart, we still have each other.

Kaila Lujambio completes a delivery at the Wallingford Emergency Shelter For Columbus House shelters

Each girl works from her home on a specific task to make all the parts of the project work, such as making care cards, writing thank-you notes, coloring the mandalas and dropping off the packages. Notes Kaila, “We are being very careful with our drop-off/pick-ups by following distance requirements, wearing masks, using gloves, washing hands. It takes a bit of coordination and we are trying to be contact-less to enforce the staying six feet apart requirement. Our parents, teachers, and alumnae have helped us with deliveries, too.”

Emilee Apuzzo ’20 works at Big Y supermarket in Guilford, Connecticut. Needing a face mask to wear, she saw the Butterfly of Love boxes on the counter in her department. When she asked her supervisor where they came from, the reply was, “Some girls from Mercy dropped them off.” That is the Spirit of Mercy and the reason the Circle is Timeless.

While the Butterfly of Love project relies mainly on word-of-mouth, the response has been tremendous. The group has delivered 1,875 face masks and 605 encouragement and thank you cards to date. And their list is growing. One alumna recently contacted the school’s Advancement Office seeking care-package donations for an assisted living center in Middletown, and, within hours, the butterflies were at work in meeting this need.

Some of the local recipients that have been receiving care packages include: the Columbus House shelters in New Haven, Wallingford, Middlesex counties (which are now operating from hotels); Whitney Rehabilitation Care Center, Hamden; Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Children’s Center, Middletown; Poet Seat Health Center; Middlesex Hospital ICU, Middletown; Middletown Police Department; St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen, Middletown; Master’s Manna Food Pantry, Wallingford; Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven; COVID Shelter One, New Haven; Town of Wallingford employees; and area food/grocery stores and frontline workers.

“Our Butterflies of Love are bringing a bit of hope and love to patients and residents who are isolated, and to front-line workers,” says Kaila. “Our cards and packages are just a token of gratitude and appreciation for all of these people.”
—Marie Kalita

Messages to: Catherine (Cathy) Walsh - Communications Specialist, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Northeast

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