Feel Good Stories: Letters of Love

Sunday, Jun 20th 2021
Hand hold little heart meaning feel love with green nature bokeh background

Take a moment and think of someone you can write a letter or send a note to, whether it be a close friend, loved one, family member, or even the local healthcare or senior living center. Writing the message will have you feeling happy and connected to the recipient, and the recipient will surely be excited to receive the message. Small gestures, such as a letter or note, even small package, can make the world of difference.

Letters of Love: signed, sealed, delivered

Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter” – Jane Austen, “Persuasion.”

The North Country Center for Independence and Fesette Realty learned just that in their recent “Letters of Love” campaign.

“The way that it started was I had seen some different articles around the country where people were writing letters to people in nursing homes,” Colleen Downs, systems advocate for North Country Center for Independence, said.

“One of the areas that we focus on is providing people who are in nursing homes either support through our Ombudsman Program or trying to help people who may be able to transition back home.

“I thought this might be a great way to reach out to people, marrying that with the COVID and the fact that people haven't had access to visits from friends and family.”

Ombudsman Coordinator Amy Gehrig saw firsthand COVID-19's impact on seniors in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

“Because she's one of the people who tries to re-mediate cases for either family members of people who are in nursing homes or the nursing home residents themselves and she'll work with nursing homes to try and do that,” Downs said.

“So she has seen the impact on the residents not being able to touch people, hug people, just feeling alone and isolated.”

The Letters of Love Campaign was designed to bring awareness to people who are in nursing homes, people who are isolated, and people who are lonely.

“And also get the community involved because it's a good way to be able to give back at a time when it just felt like everybody is kind of closed off,” Downs said.

“So what we did was put together a project team within North Country Center for Independence, and then we talked with Fesette Realty because they have a marketing team and they might also be interested in helping get the word out. So, it became a partnership between the two organizations."

“They thought it would be a great way to have some joy and positivity going back into the homes,” Cara Teeple, a Fesette Realty's marketing team member, said.

“Fesette Realty put together five drop boxes, which would collect the letters from the community. We had our graphic designer design all the advertising material and we also had some video promotion that we posted.”

Drop boxes were located at Fesette Realty, North Country Center for Independence, Saranac Lake, Elizabethtown and Malone.

“So that way it covered all three counties,” Teeple said.

The campaign raked in 4,000 cards – purchased and handmade.

“We had hoped for 1,500, and the first two weeks out of the three-week time frame, it was a little slow going,” Downs said.

“We were starting to get nervous. Cara said the last week was when things really started to come in. Billy Jones (New York State Assemblyman) really helped us because he was behind the project, and he wound up putting out a flyer that was received by all residents and people really started to bring more cards in.”

“We actually got so many, we had to start looking for other organizations to bring letters to,” Teeple said.

“So we branched out to ARC homes, and we were also able to give letters to assisted living facilities as well.”

Campaign organizers delivered the cards of cheer to 28 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, ARC, Meals on Wheels and to the homeless.

“It feels so good,” Downs said.

“What we're doing now is we're looking to get pictures or videos of people receiving the cards so the community that put this together can see what their work did. We had one woman who wrote 200 cards and brought them in, handmade cards, kids – it was amazing.”

Many of the cards' messages were heartfelt.

“A lot of them were specifically looking for a pen pal, so this wasn't a one time thing for them,” Teeple said.

“They are hoping to have an open line of communication.

“We received a lot of beautiful paintings. A lot of children did really nice, colorful drawings, so we got all sorts of letters but essentially they are just going to make everyone very happy.”

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