Group of Henrico kids create clothes pins, coffee filter butterflies for assisted living facilities

Published: May. 18, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - It’s a workshop unlike any other, with an assembly line that rivals that of the Model T. Under the guidance of Sally Sylvester, a group of Henrico kids is spreading their wings and covering their community with kindness.

“Just to see how they’ve streamlined the process has been incredible, it’s very systematic and methodical,” Sylvester says.

Fifth-grader Henry Pietrantoni says the process starts with the coloring station.

”We’re coloring clothes pins and coffee filters. When we’re done coloring coffee filters, we go out and spray them on the line. Then once they’re sprayed, we scrunch them up and put the clothespin on so they become butterflies,” Henry said.

When assisted living facilities shut their doors to visitors at the height of the pandemic, the kids felt like the seniors needed a lift. So, they took action, and ‘Butterflies 4 Smiles’ was born.

The first order of business was delivering 170 butterflies to “Our Lady of Hope.”

Sylvester says she went back to the kids and asked an important question. “I said, ‘OK guys, do you think we can make 170 butterflies?’”

The kids replied, “that’s a lot of butterflies, but we can do it.”

Other kids like Charlotte Nerheim heard about the program and wanted to join.

“One day I asked what they were doing and they said we’re making butterflies for Our Lady of Hope. I said ‘that sounds cool can I help?’” Nerheim said. “They told me ‘yea’, so I started coloring coffee filters each day to help and now we have a workshop, and I’m proud of it.”

170 butterflies turned into 500, which soon blossomed into 10,000, 15,000 and now more than 20,000.

”That means we’ve gotten more than 20,000 smiles, which makes me happy just thinking about that,” Nerheim said.

Some butterflies working double duty, including one that went to Chuck and Sally Bingley.

”Well it just touched my heart and I thought these kids should be recognized,” Sally Bingley said.

The couple lives at Cedarfield and over the past year, they took every precaution necessary to stay healthy.

”We stayed at home a great deal, and it’s so wonderful now to get out and see other people,” Bingley said. Including the kids who dropped off a butterfly in March.

After a short walk to the workshop, Sally and her husband Chuck handed the kids the NBC12 Acts of Kindness award, with $300 in cash and two $50 gift cards to Mexico restaurant.

Butterflies from a backyard instead of a cocoon, a special moment coming full circle.

”I’m just so happy that she’s happy, and if it makes her smile, it makes me smile,” Nerheim said.

These kids and their creations have a lot in common because, in this workshop, they’re also building character - one coffee filter and one clothespin at a time.

”I’ve learned that it’s extremely important to give back to your community, and I’ve also learned how important teamwork is,” Pietrantoni said.

”They’re happy, they’re bright and they make people smile. Every butterfly is unique, everyone is different, everyone is beautiful,” Sylvester said.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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