Pen pal program connects seniors with kids

Maggie Schreifels, a resident at Country Meadow Village, composes a letter to a first grader in the Sedro-Woolley School District.

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Maggie Schreifels sits at a table in the lobby of Country Meadow Village, carefully putting pen to paper.

Corresponding through handwritten letters is something she has enjoyed doing for about 75 years.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and Gov. Jay Inslee’s “stay home, stay healthy” mandate, seniors living in facilities such as Country Meadow Village are eager for social contact.

Even if it’s only through a letter.

That day at Country Meadow Village, the 83-year-old Schreifels was replying to a letter she received from a girl named Phoebe, who is a first grader in the Sedro-Woolley School District.

“She wrote a beautiful letter,” Schreifels said. “For someone in the first grade, she’s a fantastic writer.”

Phoebe’s letter and Schreifels’s response are part of the Country Meadow Village’s CoronaWriteUs Project, which was implemented by Program Director David Bricka.

Bricka is constantly seeking out ways to keep the community’s residents active and engaged. His efforts have only increased during these trying times.

“I love the idea of the kids sitting down and writing a letter, as it’s a lost art,” Bricka said. “Our residents will certainly appreciate the efforts of these kids.

“There is nothing like receiving a handwritten note or letter from someone special.”

So toward those ends, Bricka reached out to local schools in search of pen pals.

The response has been fantastic. About 25 letters have arrived at Country Meadow Village, the majority by mail and the rest by email.

All necessary safety precautions are strictly adhered to in regard to COVID-19. Bricka consulted with everyone from nurses to the U.S. Postal Service.

“Safety is of course of the utmost importance,” Bricka said. “We had to figure out a way to keep everyone safe and to make it fun. There were definitely some logistics to figure out, but we got it to work.”

Bricka quarantines the letters, then scans them and sends them to a color printer. Those copies are then given to residents involved in the project.

Residents like Schreifels.

“We got a flyer from David,” she said of how she got involved. “He’s always thinking about us. Especially now that we are all so confined.”

Schreifels said she has a pair of pen pals. Not only Phoebe, but a freshman at Sedro-Woolley High School.

“It gives me something to do,” she said. “I write a lot of letters. But it’s getting harder all the time because I’m left handed and I have arthritis in that thumb.”

Schreifels said she just might have to buy a typewriter.

“She (Phoebe) asked me all kinds of questions,” Schreifels said. “And she told me about herself. She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She even sent me a picture. She’s a cute little girl.”

Bricka said the project has been a lot of fun. He can see that in the eyes of those taking part.

“Maggie is just a great gal,” he said. “She is so much fun. And now I can see that she’s having fun. This is just great for everybody.

“I am so happy with the response we’ve received because you just never know. But so many people have reached out. It has been great.”

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