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They've Got Mail: Feelhaver 4th Graders Pen Pal Partners with Friendship Have - from The Messenger

February 20, 2021

Ava Osorio loves writing letters almost as much as she loves receiving letters.

On Friday, the fourth grader in Sue Nordstrom’s class at Feelhaver Elementary School read through the newest letter she’d received from her pen pal, Mary, a resident at Friendship Haven.

In the letter, Mary thanked Osorio for the Valentines Day card she sent, and told her a story about a squirrel that used to visit her in her yard when she would feed it.

Osorio picked out the perfect stationery to craft her response letter, sharing how her schoolwork is going, how much she enjoys playing outside and about her pets.

Recently, the fourth grade students at Feelhaver have been paired with residents at Friendship Haven for a pen pal program.

Girl writing letter

The idea came from Sophia Heesch, the Journeys Neighborhood coordinator at Friendship Haven, who thought of it after the Feelhaver second graders sent Christmas cards to the residents a couple months ago.

“That was something that I could do that would bring (the residents) social interaction without bringing people here,” she said.

So she reached out to a few people and eventually got connected with Dawn Erickson, the at-risk coordinator at Feelhaver, who set up the letter exchange with the fourth graders.

On Friday morning, the students received their first letters from their pen pals — they had written and sent letters last week. Some got started on writing their responses while others showed their friends the letters they received.

KC Alexander was focused as she wrote her letter to her pen pal, Gladys.

“I’m asking her questions and I’m telling her how many siblings I have,” she said. “It’s really exciting when you get letters back and you get to learn about them, too.”

In the back of the classroom, Latrell Clark was working on a drawing for his pen pal, Duane. He learned that Duane goes by the nickname “Smokey,” so he wrote about his own nickname — “Trelly.”

“I’m going to draw him a picture of what I look like and tell him I can’t wait for my next letter,” he said. “It’s really fun because you get to know new people and you get to talk to them in a safe way.”

Osorio likes that she has a new friend that she’s never met.

“It’s kind of exciting when you get the letter back,” she said. “I love writing letters.”

boy writing letter

Erickson said she hopes that the students and residents are able to continue the letter exchange through the rest of the school year.

“We’re loving it here,” she said.

Her students are learning to care for others and have empathy, Erickson said. They’re building relationships and learning to communicate with someone other than their own age.

The students get so excited when they receive their letters, she said.

On Thursday, one student received a special letter from their pen pal. The pen pal had seen the student’s name in an article in The Messenger and took the time to cut it out and include it with the letter to the student.

student reading letter from pen pal

“The kid that got it was just elated,” Erickson said.

The Friendship Haven residents also get excited when letters arrive from their pen pals, Heesch said.

“The letters are just so cute,” she said. “Some of the letters said ‘Please don’t write in cursive, I can’t read it.'”

UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge sponsors the pen pal program by providing stationery, envelopes and special mailboxes to place the letters in.

Heesch said she wants to keep this pen pal program going, even after this year.

“I think it would be so cool if they could meet their pen pals,” she added.

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