A couple weeks ago, we shared the story of a new pen pal program that started with a group of children under the guidance of Julie Taylor from Medic Air and Bonnie Lawrence at Consulate Health Care. 

As a recap, Taylor and other volunteers from her church were brainstorming ideas to educate the children while also providing opportunities for intergenerational sharing. The children, ages three through 11 years old, were all part of a church group that had to cease in-person programming because of the pandemic. As a result, the pen pal program began.  We are back to report how the program has blossomed, and the effect it has had on the children and patients involved.

“The program has definitely bridged a generational gap,” said Taylor. Because of the success with the original group of children, now children from several other churches and schools are involved. Spanish-speaking individuals have also been recruited to write letters to patients who exclusively speak Spanish.

With so many individuals wanting to connect through letter-writing, and the deft coordination between Taylor and Lawrence, patients at more than 15 Consulate Health Care centers have received letters from their pen pals. The letters are particularly meaningful to the patients who don’t have family of their own.

To better understand the impact of the pen pal program on patients, we spoke to Ashley Spratley, the director of community life, at Newport News Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newport News, VA.  “The patients have been grateful for the communication during this time when we haven’t been able to invite in live entertainment,” explained Spratley. She said that her patients have been working on writing responses to the letters, which has been an enriching exercise. Newport News Nursing and Rehab is just one of the many care centers involved in the program, so the number of patients impacted is quite large.

“I hope the pen pal program will continue into the future, even when the pandemic is over,”  said Julie Taylor. Based on what we have learned, we think the children and patients all agree with Taylor’s wish.

Sweet treats from the pen pals.
Sweet treats from the pen pals

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