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Pen Pal Program Kicked Off

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | November 3, 2020

Emporia Place residents are hoping for some special mail this holiday season.

The assisted living community, along with Emporia Main Street and Coffelt Signs, has launched a pen pal program for its residents.

Main Street Community Development Coordinator Jessica Buchholz said the idea for the program came from seeing other similar pen pal programs springing up around the country over the course of the pandemic.

“I thought, ‘There’s got to be some way we can get something like this going in Emporia,’” she said. “Unfortunately, even outside of COVID, some of our seniors don’t get the interaction that they need. And, with COVID, there’s a lot of limitation of individuals being able to go in and have visits.”

The pen pal program, Buchholz said, will allow seniors to gain those meaningful connections with people outside of the nursing home during a stressful and uncertain time.

The way the program works is simple. Community members are encouraged to write letters or send little care packages to residents at Emporia Place. A number of downtown businesses are already prepared to help out with different ideas, Buchholz said, such as sweet treats from the Sweet Granada, puzzles from Trox Gallery and Gifts, lotions from Bath Expressions or even crossword puzzle books from Graves Drugs and more.

Many downtown businesses also have unique cards available, too.

Coffelt Signs Owner Staci Hamman said she was excited to get involved with the program. Emporia Place means a lot to her on a personal level because her mother had been a resident at one time.

So, Hamman and Coffelt Signs sponsored a luau-themed kick-off party for the party with Braum’s ice cream.

During the party, Life Enrichment Coordinator Jessica Canchola took photos of residents with a marker board detailing a few of their favorite activities and foods. She said she was excited about the program because there are residents at the home who don’t have family around.

“This will start some new relationships and give them something to look forward to,” she said. “Whether it’s a letter or a care package, I think that would really brighten their days to receive that.”

Canchola said these are relationships that don’t have to be limited to the pandemic. The friendships that could form from these pen pal relationships will be a bright spot.

“It will really help our residents get through each day,” she said.

Hamman said the possibilities are exiting to think about.

“We are really excited about this and the pen pals and seeing where it goes,” Hamman said.

And, Buchholz said this is a great opportunity for the community to continue to come together in a number of ways.

“We are really encouraging residents to shop locally,” Buchholz said. “For example, if someone wants to send a care package or letter with something from a local business, they can get it ready, address it to the resident and bring it to the Main Street Office. Each Friday we will take packages to Emporia Place so residents have something to look forward to over the weekend.”

Anyone interested in participating in the program can find out more information by visiting https://emporiamainstreet.com/events/emporia-place-pen-pal-program.

Send letters and packages to: Emporia Place, c/o Jessica Canchola, 1200 W. 12th Ave., Emporia, KS 66801.

Be sure to put the resident’s name on the back of the envelope so it gets to the right person.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.