Rich Vanderweit saw the loneliness of older people in the COVID-19 pandemic, and he devised a modest effort to ease their isolation. Vanderweit, an activity aide at Sullivan County Health Care in Claremont, thought: Why not match his nursing home residents with pen pals at Summercrest Senior Living Community 12 miles away in Newport? Both facilities had stopped allowing visitors because of the virus.
Soon, letters began pouring in, at least 700 from around the United States. The stacks of mail got so large that Vanderweit organized a pen pal club which gathers once a week to read the letters aloud and respond as a group. Sometimes they get simple cards that say “Just brightening your day, no need to write back.” Others send heartfelt letters.
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