Pandemic Pen Pals – GNSOTD Mon, July 6th 2020

Two McMaster grads who have turned a simple school project into an effort to help seniors in isolation. The two grads, Charmaine Holland and Aliza Prodaniuk started a Pen Pal service back in April to reach out to seniors to remind them they are not forgotten as they sit in their rooms unable to have guests over.

It started with Charmaine, who says she has always been close to her grandmother. It’s her grandmother she thought of when news of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes came out. After mulling over how to help seniors, the idea of creating a pen pal network came to mind. “It’s extending a web of kindness to the whole nation and beyond,” Holland said.

“We wanted to ease the feelings of isolation,” Aliza said. “It’s been really exciting and awesome to see the positive impact it’s been making in the community but also in the care homes.”

It’s pretty simple really; they have gathered letter writing volunteers and then they reach out to seniors homes, anyone in the home who wants a letter reaches out by email, and then volunteers write emails back to them! It’s like pen pals but without any risk of spreading the Coronavirus at all. They are also getting some very interesting responses.

“This elderly woman, who is 95-years-old, told us about how all the elderly gentlemen in her home were having a contest to see who can grow the longest ponytail … they’re all in various stages of balding,” Prodaniuk said.

Charmaine looks after the organizational side of things, while Aliza, who is a professional writer, formats the letters and gets them to the homes. So far they have connected with 30 homes across Canada, 11 in Hamilton, 10 in Niagara, and one as far as Alberta.

Some weeks, they get up to 30 letters. Sometimes that many in a day. And some of the volunteers have written upwards of 30 letters in the almost three-month life of the pen pal service. Many of the volunteers also write in French. The homes receive messages from pen pals every two weeks.

It’s a wonderful effort and your Good News Story of the Day, which you can read in full here. But they’re not stopping just because things are starting to ease up. In fact they are looking to grow.

They are looking for a third member to add to the lead team, they want someone to help manage Social Media. They are also trying for non-profit status so they can expand their efforts.

Story and Image from CBC News.

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