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Pen Pals bridge generation gap

Oct 23, 2020
Writers' craft class partners with Northland Pointe

pen pals
Pen pals Amberly Green and Helen O'Neil share a love of the colour green.

The pair found that out when they recently met in person at Northland Pointe.

"I don't remember what I wrote … I've got a bit of a memory problem," said O'Neil, who is relatively new to the Port Colborne long-term care home, as the two sat down to talk.


O'Neil said it was very nice to meet her pen pal and talk to her. She planned to keep sharing letters with the high school student.

"It was interesting to meet her," Green said of O'Neil. "You don't know what the person looks like when you are reading their letter … it was cool to meet in person."

While Green said her memory was a bit shaky, too, her first letter to O'Neil was about being accepted to university.

"I talked about being in cadets," said Green, adding she plans to keep in touch with O'Neil.

Green and O'Neil were originally set up as pen pals through John Raso and Lisa Zalewski. Raso is an English teacher at the high school and Zalewski is a resident and family support worker at the long-term care home.

"Lisa sent an email to our school looking for students who might be interested in sending letters," said Raso. "I've got a nice group of kids in my writers' craft class and literacy course that I thought would be a good fit for the program."

Raso said the students wrote to the seniors first and then the seniors wrote back.

Zalewski said she decided to run the pen pal program because she found some seniors were a bit lonely and they had great stories and information to share.

"This is to bridge the gap between generations and form friendships. I went around and asked if there was anyone interested in taking part.

While some of the seniors were a bit hesitant at first, they came around when they received their first letter from the high school students.

"We had some time to respond. Some of the seniors were not able to write … I just carried around a laptop and wrote their letters for them," said Zalewski.

She said the plan is to keep the letter-writing going and let the teens and seniors build a friendship.
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905-684-7251 | @DaveJTheTrib
905-684-7251 | @DaveJTheTrib