NEW MILFORD — Residents of a skilled care facility are participating in one of their first socially distant activity in months — and it’s for a cause.

It’s been since mid-March residents of Candlewood Valley Health & Rehabilitation have had any type of group activity due to health and safety guidelines in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, a number of them sat individually, each wearing a mask, at tables in the dining room to tie-dye white face masks for students going back to school.

An added bonus: the proceeds will benefit the center’s team for the Alzheimer’s Association’s virtual Walk to End Alzheimer’s next month.

“It’s such a cute project,” Recreation Director Kathleen Horvath said. “Residents are very excited to be part of the community and have a community service project.”

A donation of approximately 1,000 white face masks was recently made to the care facility. Administrator David Segal approached Horvath about the possibility of having the residents tie-dye the masks.

Horvath immediately jumped on the idea and, with facility social worker Cindy LaCour, came up with the idea to support the Alzheimer’s Association.

“This shows us we’re all in this together,” Segal said of the community project. “Everyone cares.”

Two hundred masks have already been made, with many of them donated to a few classrooms in the New Milford and Bethel school systems. Others have been purchased by residents in the community. A donation of $1, or any amount, is welcome, Horvath said.

“First of all, I am so proud of my students and their commitment to using their masks appropriately,” said fourth-grade teacher Karen Rivero of Sarah Noble Intermediate School in New Milford. “They realize that they are doing their part in keeping their classmates at SNIS safe.”

“However, the disposable masks are not that sturdy, and as a result, often break,” she said. “Our new tie dyed ones will give the kids an opportunity to be an individual in a sea of blue and white medical masks when they choose their favorite pattern.”

Rivero said the masks “represent a connection to our community.”

Over the past few years, Rivero has introduced her students to her father, who is a resident of Candlewood, via a video of his harmonica concerts or by having the students make cards for the residents. to “let them know they haven’t been forgotten.”

“But now, they are on the receiving end,” Rivero said. “Many students do not have, or cannot visit elderly relatives. This gift to them is a treasure in so many ways.”

Horvath recently received an email from a para-educator in a school system elsewhere in the state who heard about the project from a story that aired on WFSB-3. The teacher, who works with autistic children, requested seven masks for her circle of teaching staff.

“We want to support as many people as possible,” Horvath said.

As of Monday, about $900 has been raised.

“This has been a wonderful and valuable project to help keep children safe and the community at large safe during the continuing health crisis,” LaCour said.

She said the activity has been rewarding for residents because “it has been difficult during this time” for them not being able to participate in regular activities.

“I thought it was a good idea (to make the masks),” resident Jane Palmer said. “I enjoyed it. It was fun.”

Resident Evelyn Burkland shared her creativity with the tie-dying, giving much thought to how colors mix.

“She really thought about the colors connecting them to green grass, blue sky and purple flowers,” Horvath related.

Residents listened to music while tie-dying in the center’s main dining room.

“They didn’t want to leave the room,” Horvath said of how much of the residents enjoy the activity. “It was social, but distant, and they felt it was important for them to give back to the community.”

Staff members, including CNAs and others, stopped by the dining room to assist residents.

“We’re especially thankful for the staff who participated,” Horvath said, noting how it brightened up the residents.

Residents of all the facility’s wings participated in the project in some way. The secure unit helped fold all the masks.

Funds raised through the individual purchases of the masks will be used for Candlewood’s efforts in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“Our residents will be walking or wheeling to raise funds for this important cause,” LaCour said.

To purchase a mask, email khorvath@candlewoodvalley.com or call 860-355-0971, ext. 19.