Hometown Heroes: Dear Pen Pal

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Last summer at camp, 9-year-old Katie Mallad got letters from her dad and grandmother that she couldn't read. Neither could her camp counselor who was 18 or 20 years old.  Why?  Because the letters were written in cursive handwriting.

For some young people, cursive is like reading a foreign language.

Katie's dad is the CEO of Presbyterian Communities Services and knows a building full of people who excel at cursive handwriting. Tim Mallad partnered the seniors at Presbyterian Village North with Katie's third-grade teacher at Good Shepherd Episcopal School. That's how "Dear Pen Pal" was formed.

In November, 19 residents of Presbyterian Village North wrote a letter in cursive to the 19 third graders in Karen Gunter's class. The students were excited to get that letter. They responded in cursive handwriting, which they admit was difficult to write.  The seniors wrote back beautifully. With questions asked and answered, friendship was born.

The 8- and 9-year-olds love getting snail mail and learning about their older friend. Plus, their cursive writing has improved.

The seniors love getting snail mail because so much of their mail is email. They're impressed by their young pen pal and enjoy sharing their life and learning about their new friend.

The students visited their Pen Pal at Presbyterian Village North and will go on a second visit in May.

"Dear Pen Pal" is so popular that it will continue during the summer. In the fall all 60 third graders at Good Shepherd Episcopal School will be paired with 60 senior citizens at Presbyterian Village North. The hope is that "Dear Pen Pal" will go national and that these friendships continue into the future.