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Thursday, September 12, 2024

How Pen Pal Programs Create Bonds for CMSS Residents

In the digital world of tweets, likes, shares and follows, many people underestimate the power of a handwritten letter. Many in younger generations have not experienced the thrill of receiving a letter or postcard in the mail and writing back to friends or family.

But at Chicago Methodist Senior Services (CMSS), we know just how impactful a letter can be. That’s why we are building friendships between residents and individuals in our communities through pen pal programs. One program that helps us develop these bonds is Creative Community Connections (CCC).

Creative Community Connections Builds intergenerational Friendships

CCC is a program designed to improve the quality of life for CMSS residents by assisting them in developing new creative relationships and providing outlets to share their story, voice and talents. It incorporates letter writing, creative engagement and relationship development to build intergenerational friendships between residents and creative people in different communities.

Wesley Place resident Irma built a friendship with her pen pal, WaZeil, an artist in her 20s from Indiana. The two corresponded through letter writing and artistic expression and WaZeil even visited Irma at Wesley Place. The two laughed, bonded and posed for pictures with their custom printed tee shirts that said “Stay Weird.” They also visited StoryCorps to record their story and share it with the world.

CMSS Pen Pal Program

“[Creative Community Connections has] gotten me in touch with our younger generation – which is our future.” Irma said. “I felt part of the world again… And it was something I could share with my other friends.”

CCC co-founder and CMSS arts programming coordinator Jenn Ross, MAAT, LPC is expanding the pen pal program into other Chicago communities.

Creating a Pen Pal Program with Edgewater Village

CMSS recently partnered with Edgewater Village to connect older adults from both organizations through a pen pal program. Individuals fill out surveys and get matched with others who share common interests. Ross has high hopes for how the new pen pal program will grow and bring smiles to residents’ faces.

“Letter writing can improve people’s quality of life and further exemplifies that if someone lives in a residential community, they have a vast amount to offer to people outside of the CMSS walls,” Ross said.

CMSS is always looking for more volunteers to join the pen pal program. If you’re interested in joining, please reach out to Jenn Ross at or apply to be a volunteer.

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