You’ve got a friend in me

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” John 15:12

There’s something special happening on the space coast- friendships blossoming between pen pals young and old! 5th grade students from Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School and residents at nearby assisted living facility, Victoria Landing, are now buddies. They write letters to each other all year long and get together for big holiday bashes.

The most recent party? Christmas celebration complete with cookies, carols, and cuddles! Teacher, Lynn Minner, beams with pride. “My students’ faces simply light up with excitement when letters from their pen pals arrive at school,” she explains. “When the class caroled at Victoria Landing, their pen pals were smiling and singing along with pure joy.”

Senior, Kathy Yoder, loves every minute of it! “I look forward to seeing my pen pal and writing cards all throughout the year. It reminds me of my grandkids.” Friend, Delores Moscas, agrees “The kids are terrific and we have so much fun together!”

Up next is a February tea party and the students are already planning an end-of-school barbeque with their pen pals. 5th grader Michael says, “I have learned no matter your age or another person’s age, you can still be friends.” Peer, Rachel, agrees, “I love that we have pen pals! I love it because it helps us grow in communication and love for others.”

You can be sure this arrangement, now it its fourth year, will continue long into the future. Amy Schafer, Executive Director at Victoria Landing, explains “Intergenerational programming is a fancy way of saying we bring seniors and kids together to form fun and meaningful relationships. Both groups have so much to teach and learn from each other and the result of these programs is simply amazing.” Minner agrees, “As an educator at a Catholic school, I know there is more to developing the whole person than academics alone. These experiences foster in students a true understanding of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The lesson is not lost on the children. Nick shares, “I think it is a great way to teach students how to be kinder.” Classmate Eliana adds, “It is a beautiful thing for elderly people to once again be around young people.” Victoria says, “As a work of mercy, it helps us be a better Christian.” And insightful child Dominic simply breaks it down like this, “I think the program is great because you make people happy.”

By Jen Drow, special to the Florida Catholic Newspaper – December 12, 2017