PRINCETON — With nursing homes limiting visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many residents in long-term care facilities are experiencing feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“Many people would like to help, but are unsure of what to do,” Matt Atwood, Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) Southern Regional Director said. “We are recruiting volunteers to help send some happiness to a local nursing home.”
CCWVa is collaborating with Mercer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Bluefield to begin a Pen Pal Program. The program’s goal is to connect volunteers in the community with pen pals who are living in the nursing center.
“We had a connection in the Mercer Nursing and Rehab Center and we pitched the idea to her and to the manager there and asked if they thought with everything going on, would something like this, connecting them with pen pals and sending care packages to brighten their day and make things a little easier on them? They did and they were on board,” Atwood said.
“The activities director spoke to some of the residents and there was a lot of interest. So, we worked with her to get all the participants name, and information about things they liked, different food and books that they like, so that we could share that. So, in addition to the cards and letters, they can send them care packages.”
After more communication with Mercer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Atwood realized that all the residents should get a care package, not just the ones participating in the pen pal program.
“They gave us a pretty extensive list on what could be donated and what people would like and benefit them, so we started letting everyone know what we are doing and we have had several donations from the community,” Atwood said.
“They were excited about it. People are looking for a way that they can help during everything that is going on and this is something that they can do, you don’t have to gather in a crowd, but you are a volunteer and you are helping somebody.”
The program is open to anyone who might enjoy a pen pal correspondence or is willing to donate to a care package.
“Everyone that brought a donation or signed up to be a pen pal, they are really excited to be helping someone,” Atwood said.
“You are helping the people in a nursing home, but you are also helping the people who participate in the program to feel like they are making a difference.”
For the safety of the residents at Mercer Nursing and Rehabilitation, he care packages will be assembled by Atwood and a few other volunteers.
“Mainly we are having everything delivered here and all the cards mailed here and then we will gather everything and take it to the nursing home,” Atwood said.
“We thought it would be in the best interest of everyone to have everything delivered here and then we make the connection.” CCWVa will match volunteers with a pen pal.
Individuals interested in becoming a volunteer for the Pen Pal Program can call (304) 425-4306 or stop by 203 S. 7th Street in Princeton for more information.
In addition to brightening the residents’ days with cards and letters, CCWVa also hopes to kick off the program by delivering care packages to the nursing home.
Donations for care package items are being accepted through November 20. Suggested items to donate for the care packages include: stationery, magazines (for both men and women), tissues, coloring books, markers, devotionals, CDs of gospel music, CDs of 50’s and 60’s music, snacks (chocolate, cheese puffs, crackers, etc.), chapstick, lotion, nail polish, socks, watches, small artificial plants, knickknacks, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals.
Donations for the care packages can be mailed or dropped off to: CCWVa Attn: Pen-Pal Program 203 S. 7th Street Princeton, WV 24740 To learn more about CCWVa’s Pen Pal Program, call (304) 425-4306 ext. 4.
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