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The lost art of correspondence

By Staff | Feb 19, 2017

For the fourth year, students in Ms. Anita Helmick’s fourth grade class at Demoney Elementary have written to pen pals through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and to their delight, the seniors have written back.

“We have a timeline for all the seniors’ letters to come in, and I?deliver them all at once to Demoney,”?RSVP?director Linda Anderson said.

“This year has been a great one for meeting the timeline and getting the mail to the students,”?Anderson said.

Teacher Anita Helmick said, “When I get the letters in my mail till, I?set each one on the student’s desk while they’re at recess.”

When the students return, they are always excited to read the letters.

Anderson said this year 20 students from Mrs. Helmich’s class exchanged letters with their assigned RSVP?pen pal.

The Emmet County RSVP?program launched its first pen pal program November, 2010. Elementary students were paired with RSVP?volunteers and exchanged 3-4 letters over a period of a few months. RSVP?hosts a pen pal party at the conclusion, so the pen pals can meet each other.

In addition to sharpening the students’ writing skills, the penpal activity also teaches students how to address an envelope, to sign their names, and to read and write in cursive. It’s also an opportunity to facilitate communication between the younger and older generations, Anderson said.

The letters are exchanged with first names only of the students.

Fourth grader Izabella and RSVP?volunteer Betty Dawson said their correspondence was enjoyable.

“We found out we have things in common from her life now and my childhood years ago,”?Dawson said.

“For example, we both have half or step siblings. We both have family scattered in various places. We both rode the bus to school.”

Izabella agreed that she and Dawson had more in common than differences.

Perhaps this was one of the most important lessons of all.

RSVP?is part of a national network of programs called the Senior Corps and is federally and state funded. Emmet County RSVP?is part of RSVP?Northwest Iowa, connected with the programs in Dickinson,?Kossuth, Clay and Palo Alto counties. Iowa Lakes Community College has sponsored the program for over 40 years.

Anderson said, “RSVP?volunteers are not paid, but benefit in so many ways.”?

Joining is free, and anyone 55 and over is eligible to share their individual skills, gifts, and experiences with individuals and the community.

Contact Anderson at 712-362-7929 or email landerson@iowalakes.edu.