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Irvine’s “Smiles Project” is Helping Women in Need


(UPDATE) Irvine Community News & Views has been following Irvine’s The Smiles Project for the past two months.  The local group started out with a mission to create handmade cards for homebound seniors in Irvine that were distributed in conjunction with meals on wheels food deliveries.  That project resulted in volunteers creating more than 500 cards.

The group’s next project focused on “Thank You” cards for healthcare workers that have been working on the front lines to keep our community safe during these unprecedented times.  Volunteers created and distributed over 1,000 cards to our two local Irvine hospitals (Kaiser and Hoag).

The third round of cards were created in conjunction with Teacher Appreciation Week.  Over 1,000 cards were distributed to all of the elementary, middle, and high schools in Irvine.

After spreading so many smiles around Irvine, The Smiles Project set their sights on two new groups — helping Orange County’s female essential farmworkers and the homeless community.  Specifically, The Smiles Project is now gathering donations for women who are in need of feminine hygiene products such as tampons, liners, and pads.

The Smiles Project founder and Irvine commissioner, Branda Lin had the idea after working alongside Irvine City Councilmember Farrah Khan on one of Irvine’s farms.  “Feminine hygiene products are always in need and are rather costly.  Those who have food insecurity will likely also have difficulty purchasing these items,” Lin said.  Their flyer states, “Periods Don’t Stop For Pandemics!”

Those who would like to donate are encouraged to drop products off on Friday, June 5th between 3-4pm at Heritage or University Park Libraries. (This is a no-contact drop off.  Donors are asked to leave products in your trunk for a volunteer to grab them safely.)

You can also make a monetary donation online so that a volunteer can purchase products.  You can donate at: https://givebutter.com/periodproject 

You can find out more information by visiting The Smiles Project on Facebook and Instagram.

As Irvine Community News & Views reported a couple of weeks ago, The Smiles Project was originally established to let homebound seniors in Irvine know that their neighbors were thinking of them.  Cheerful cards were created and delivered to seniors, which were designed to bring a smile.

With volunteers continuing to sign up to help, The Smiles Project decided to expand their efforts to include “Thank You” cards to our courageous healthcare workers.  More than 1,000 cards were delivered to Irvine’s two hospitals:  Kaiser and Hoag.

“Smiles Project” card thanking Irvine Teachers

A super volunteer from The Smiles Project went one step further by making 200 individually-packaged brownie treats that were distributed with the cards. Kaiser was so grateful that The Smiles Project created a couple hundred extra cards that were distributed to Kaiser healthcare workers in Anaheim.

After two successful rounds of spreading smiles, The Smiles Project set their sights on a new target last week…Irvine teachers.

Since May 4-8 was “Teacher Appreciation” week, The Smiles Project asked Irvine residents to help spread joy to our extraordinary educators here in Irvine.

The call for teacher appreciation cards was again amazing!  Volunteers dropped the cards off at each school in Irvine, so that administrative staff can safely distribute them.

During this challenging time, The Smiles Project reminds us that we are all in this together, and how important it is to use our talents and creativity to spread joy throughout our local community.

For more information on The Smiles Project, visit their Instagram and Facebook pages.

A growing number of Irvine residents are volunteering to “spread smiles and love while we are sheltering in place.”

Cards for Irvine “Meals on Wheels” Seniors

After being inspired by the thousands of people across the country (and the world) who have been helping their local communities, Irvine Community Services Commissioner Branda Lin decided to organize a local volunteer project.  It’s called The Smiles Project.

Lin — who volunteers for the Irvine Meals on Wheels program — knew that there are more than 500 homebound seniors in Irvine, many of whom were isolated even before the shelter-in-place order took effect.  Lin wanted to bring a smile to seniors who are living alone, and let them know that the community is thinking about them during this difficult isolation period.

Volunteers working with The Smiles Project create cheerful cards that are then delivered to homebound seniors.

The initial project goal was to create and deliver 500 cards to seniors enrolled in Irvine’s Meals on Wheels program.  Instead of creating 500 cards, volunteers created 1,000 cards!  With the success of the first project, the group decided to expand their efforts by creating a second round of cheerful cards to thank our local healthcare workers.

Cards for Healthcare Workers

The cards for healthcare workers were collected on Friday, April 24th at Heritage Park and University Park libraries.  To follow the physical distancing guidelines, those who created the cards were asked to place the cards in the trunk of their cars and then drive to one of the libraries where volunteers collected the cards.  They are scheduled to be dropped off at Hoag and Kaiser hospitals in Irvine this week.

Lin says she has been blown away by the number of volunteers who continue to sign up each week.  All ages are welcome and several families are working together on this project as a way to give back while remaining at home.

Lin explained that the size and format of the card is totally up to the volunteer.  Some are traditional folded greeting cards while others are postcard size.  No stamps are necessary as The Smiles Project collects and delivers the cards.  Some volunteers have even written longer letters.

The Smiles Project’s goal is to continue making cards for different groups impacted by the COVID-19 quarantine.

According to Lin, the project will continue as long as we continue to shelter-in-place.  Although details are still being worked out, you can follow The Smiles Project on Facebook or Instagram.  (I’ve included links below.)

The Smiles Project Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSmilesProjectIrvine
The Smiles Project Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/the_smiles_project_irvine

Joel Smith


Irvine, CA
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