Cajon High School pen pal club fosters new connections between students and seniors

In a world of digital communication, a group of San Bernardino teens are lending bit of cheer to seniors through hand-written letters.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- The lost art of letter writing is finding new life in the era of COVID-19 with Cajon High School students in San Bernardino.

In September, juniors Noeh Parrales and Rosalie Grajeda formed the Care Mates club with a goal of writing to seniors living in isolation at care centers.

"Especially at the time of the pandemic, we thought it would be a great way to try and help at least cheer the elderly up a little bit more," said Parrales.

Membership in the online club took off with more than a hundred students joining to become pen pals. So, far club members have corresponded with 138 seniors, including 56 at the Corona Residential Care Center.

"Most of our residents want to write back right away they want to get another letter right away," said Natali Hernandez, an employee at the facility.

Each resident there received a personalized letter written by students who were partnered up with them.

"When I make my letters I like to make them as personal as I can because I want them to feel like I am really putting in an effort into building a relationship with them," said Gradeja.

Once the letters are crafted, the club's advisors, Annette Billups, looks over each letter and then delivers them along with art work by the students to four different senior care centers.

"They still appreciate that tangible item that they can hold in their hands and read the old school way," said Billups.

The exchange has been uplifting for seniors, some who have no family to look in on them.

"It really brings people up. Some people even cry to know that somebody took a personal interest in them," said Ruby Lopez, activity director at Corona Residential Care Center.

It also brings joy to the students who receive replies.

"Mrs. Billups posts all the letters so I get a chance to read all the letters and it just makes me so happy - their responses," said Parrales.

While not all the seniors are able to write back, the club says they will continue to send letters.
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