Make a pen pal with senior citizens in San Antonio

Local teen starts initiative to write letters to area nursing homes

SAN ANTONIO – Making a friend during the pandemic might not be as complicated as one may imagine.

A local teen is proving you can make a meaningful connection without screens. In a time when most are still taking precautions at home and nursing homes can’t have any visitors, making a pen pal seems like the perfect solution.

Joven Tapiador launched a community service project through Summer of Service, or SOS, San Antonio’s Make it Happen initiative that will benefit two local nursing homes.

SOS is an organization that educates youth in San Antonio through service-learning and opportunities to study abroad.

Tapiador’s letter project idea came about during quarantine.

“I got inspired by my grandmother,” Tapiador said. “She lives in Ecuador, and I’ve been (on) FaceTime with her since the beginning of quarantine. I was thinking about all the other seniors who don’t have anyone to talk to so, I partnered with SOS to start the project.”

Although SOS is geared towards students in grades six through twelve, Tapiador says his letters project is open to the community.

Participants must create a free account on the SOS website and sign up for the letters project listed under “Opportunities”.

Once signed up, participants must write at least one letter a week which also counts as 30 minutes of community service.

Local teen starts initiative to write letters to local nursing homes (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

“You can’t just send one letter to a senior and then have them send one letter back and never talk again,” Tapiador said. “You got to kind of build that relationship with a senior.”

The letters will be sent to residents in two local nursing homes, Colonial Gardens and Heritage Rehab and Nursing Home.

“I’m asking them to communicate to the older generation and try and bridge the gap since there’s a lot of perspectives and viewpoints we can share with one another,” Tapiador said.

Although participants can choose which nursing home, according to the guidelines listed on the SOS website, the first letter can’t be written to a specific resident due to privacy reasons.

Tapiador himself has already sealed, stamped and sent off a few letters of his own. “I asked what was one of their favorite memories,” Tapiador said. “I am hoping to receive a letter back maybe like next week.”

The letters will be sent to residents in two local nursing homes, Colonial Gardens and Heritage Rehab and Nursing Home. (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

The project is set to run until the end of October, allowing enough time to exchange a few stories and smiles with a new pen pal.

To volunteer to write letters to local senior citizens, click here.

For more information on SOS Make it Happen, click here.

About the Authors

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

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