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Pen pals: Students' letters to seniors bring much-needed communication during COVID-19 isolation

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Posted at 6:54 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 20:18:39-05

CINCINNATI — The expression “It’s the little things that mean a lot” has taken on a new meaning in these isolating times. Putting kind words to paper – from kids to senior citizens – makes for a much-needed communication during our current climate.

One of 96-year-old Pat Dorward’s prized possessions is a handwritten letter from a student at John Paul II Catholic School in Cincinnati.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Yep, it’s beautiful, so it means so much to you. Oh, I appreciate it so much.”

Dorward has gotten 10 letters so far. Students from kindergarten to eighth grade have been sending the letters to senior citizens as part of an ongoing religion project.

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“This year we worked on those who were sick, the elderly or those isolated in their home,” John Paul II principal Norie Roach said.

Since the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prevented in-person visits, the kids – following guidance from their teachers – put pens to paper to lift the spirits of those who might feel lonely.

“I hope they learn how to do little things for others,” first-grade teacher Amanda Eagan said.

So far, the assignment seems to have made an impact on students.

“They need that reassurance that everything’s gonna be okay – and we’re here for them from a distance,” eighth-grader Hunter Gee said.

Sometimes, it’s sharing joke. Sometimes, it’s a verse. Sometimes, it’s just sharing something personal.

“When you write the letters, you just think, 'If I was in that position, how would I feel? What would make me feel better?'” seventh-grader McKenzie Jones said.

They’ve received responses from their senior pen pals in cards and letters, too. One person lost their best friend two days before they got the letters.

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“Just knowing we were there for her, I think she felt supported and loved,” Gee said.

The students are learning to connect in a new way that isn’t digital.

“I’m reading a handwritten letter – it’s nice to have it,” Jones said. “You can cherish it without it being deleted in a second.”

Everyone involved talked about the joy that comes when people take time to take an interest. The next round of letters from John Paul II students goes out in February.