The longer the pandemic wears on, the lonelier it gets for many elderly people who either live alone or are patients in care centers and senior living facilities.
That’s why Fellowship Square Historic Mesa has coordinated a program with three churches and a preschool and a nonprofit to form pen pal and phone pal relationships with its resident and others.
The Mesa assisted living center is working with volunteers from Hiway Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, Mill Avenue Preschool and Love of Christ Lutheran Church, inviting children, teens and adults from around the community to help make its residents feel a little less lonely.
The campaign started innocuously.
“In the past we have had many community members just drop off anonymous notes of well wishes for our residents,” said Laura K. Ontiveros, activities coordinator for Fellowship Square
And while Ontiveros said that while she originally intended to connect pen and phone pals with residents at the facility, she decided to spread the love.
“With the overwhelming support from people in our community and some from even out of state, I am currently reaching out to the assisted living directors and coordinators on our Phoenix campus and Mesa Main campus,” she said. “I am also anticipating our assisted living centers in Cottonwood, Surprise and Tucson would be interested.”
She said she’s already inundated with people who have responded to her requests and that the letters that already have been sent have exceeded the facility’s 40 residents.
She said the facility also has enough phone pals, who talk with residents at appointed times, but has told her counterparts at other Fellowship Square facilities to “put their needs out to our pool of volunteers as they know their residents best.”
There are a few guidelines for participants.
“I am sending out our volunteer application because we do work with vulnerable adults and anyone from the community who is communicating with someone in our care has to be in our system,” Ontiveros said.
“However, we also created a ‘pen pal coordinator’ title for family members or church youth leaders so parents and teachers, respectively, could have their children also send letters or pictures. We’re not having a 4-year-old sign paperwork to send someone pictures after all.”
Every member of a family then gets assigned to write to the same resident.
Initial letters can be sent to The Oasis Fellowship Square Historic Mesa, 22 W. 9th Place, Mesa, Arizona 85201.
The Life Enrichment staff will screen the letters and help residents match up with a pen pal.
Teen and adult pen pals will be informed of HIPPA regulations forbidding the sharing of patients’ personal information.
Young children must have a guardian, teacher or parent go through the volunteer process.
More information is at fellowshipsquareseniorliving.org.