May 4, 2020 —In early September, a 2nd grade teacher at Starkweather Elementary School reached out to the recreation team at Barclay Friends. She wanted to see if they were interested in coordinating a pen pal program with her class. Having interest from a large group of excited residents, the team agreed and provided her a list of contacts. About fifteen residents would be writing to two students each.
By November, the residents received their first letters. The pen pals had written delightful messages along with Thanksgiving turkey crafts made from hand tracings.
In December, the residents wrote back with holiday cards, thanking the kids for the turkeys and asking them what they wanted for the holidays. When they went to drop off letters, the Barclay Friends rec team was greeted with homemade wreaths that the students made for the residents.
All this correspondence culminated in a meeting on Valentine’s Day, when the Starkweather students came to Barclay Friends to meet their pen pals. The residents provided them with a letter thanking them for the wreaths and made a Valentine card for them. The students gave each pen pal a necklace and a heart chain wreath.
The residents were able to identify with the pen pal program as they’ve written to their spouses and friends through the years. By writing letters, the residents get the opportunity to share about their age, interests, where they come from. They answered questions about their siblings, favorite sports team, if they’ve had a pet and if they have a favorite color. The students had the opportunity to practice their handwriting skills and speak about their family, hobbies and gifts they received over the holidays.
The residents typically need assistance with writing letters, so family members and Barclay Friends staff assist with transcribing the letters as dictated to them. They also help make crafts and pick out cards. The recreation team considered this program a great success that benefited everyone involved. It was well received by the students and residents alike. They hope to do another in person get-together in the spring.