Grace College’s SERVE team recently launched a new pen pal program that pairs Grace College students with residents of Warsaw Meadows, a local nursing home. The outreach allows students to form meaningful relationships in the community without any physical contact.
“With all the complications of the year, it’s important for us as college students to see people in the community who are hurting in ways we cannot understand,” said Julia Myers, SERVE officer and Grace College student. “We value community at Grace, and many individuals in nursing homes don’t have a sense of community right now. It’s our goal to encourage them and share the hope we have in Christ. He is the constant when all is crazy,” she said.
When students returned to Grace College’s campus this past fall, they knew that student involvement activities would take on a new form. But the Grace College SERVE team, led by Jacob Sturdolf, was determined not to let the circumstances keep them from serving the community. After much brainstorming, the pen pal outreach program was born.
To date, twenty Grace students have signed up to be pen pals. Myers explained that the students aren’t the only ones who will be doing the encouraging, “There is so much insight to be gleaned from those who are older and wiser than us,” she said.
One student, Harper Nolander, a senior education major, would agree. Nolander got involved as a pen pal because of the impact several nursing home residents had on her when she was young.
“When I was a little girl, there were three special people I would visit at the nursing home. They had a special impact on my life,” explained Nolander. “I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to be alone in the nursing homes right now due to COVID. The least we can do is write a letter to show someone that they are loved and cared for. Jesus wants us to care for others, and this is one way that I can do that,” she said.
The Warsaw Meadows residents are equally excited about the new initiative. Warsaw Meadows Community Liaison Moriah Young had the privilege of delivering the first round of letters to the residents last Friday.
“Our residents were overjoyed to receive personalized letters,” said Young. “I could tell the letters made them feel very special, especially those who are in the dementia unit,” she said.
Myers hopes that as more students express a desire to be pen pals, they will be able to expand to other nursing homes in town.