A Gathering of Pen Pals

A room inside the Door County Community Center was buzzing on May 21 when a group of pen pals who have been corresponding since December met in person for the time.

“I think it’s great,” said Grant, a student in Heidi Richard’s fourth-grade class at Sunrise School in Sturgeon Bay.

“I think it’s great, too,” said Grant’s senior pen pal, Judy Larson.

The idea for students in the Sturgeon Bay School District to write to seniors who take part in programs at the community center – which the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) runs – was the idea of Jane Stephen, the school district’s community-engagement coordinator.

“A school board member involved at ADRC was trying to come up with a way to connect seniors and students,” she said, adding that Heidi Richard volunteered her class to be the first pen pals.

“I know for a fact this has been a wonderful program,” Stephen said. “It will absolutely continue. I know Heidi will pursue this with her class next year, but we would like to open it up to some other age groups and some other school districts as well.”

Rosemary Nowlan talks with her pen pals. A native of England, Rosemary shared in one of her letters that as a teenager, she danced for Queen Elizabeth II. She also wrote about her Scotty dog. “They’re really keen on meeting him. I think they were hoping I was going to bring him today, but I think it’s best if they meet him on his turf.” Photo by Len Villano.

“It means so much to the students,” Richard said. “I cannot tell you what it is like when I announce to the class, ‘We got letters from our pen pals.’ The whole class erupts. You would not believe it. It’s like Christmas morning in my classroom. Then I announce everyone’s name and pass out the letters, and they read them. It’s like they got a gift, and it actually is a gift. The letters have been amazing.”

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