Provide a way for clients or residents of organizations and agencies practicing shelter-at-home to stay engaged with the community.
Blank cards or paper, envelopes, postage, pens or pencils
The budget for this project will depend on the number of Civitan club members who wish to participate and the number of Pen Pal you are going to reach. The following is a breakdown of suggested materials.
– A sheet of 20 stamps costs $11.00 or $0.55 per letter.
– You can purchase packs of cards for $5-15 per pack. You may also check your local Dollar Tree for note cards. Another option would be to print your own. Printable Pen Pal Cards are available under the Toolkit Resources tab.
– You may also consider including a stamped return envelope to enclose in your letter to your Pen Pal.
How to Make Contact
Start by reaching out to your agency contact. If you do not already work with an agency, look for a staff person at the organization who works in community outreach or volunteer coordination. Explain the project idea and work with them to determine if it would be a benefit for their residents or clients.
Organizations to Research
Think about organizations your club already works with – I/DD specific agencies, a senior center, or hospital. If your club does not have a relationship with any of these certain organizations, then start by researching agencies that serve vulnerable communities – individuals with I/DD, the elderly, long-term care patients, etc.
Tasks & Timeline
Step 1: Identify the organization(s) you would like to work with for this project.
Step 2: Contact the appropriate staff person and create a list of Pen Pals. Also decide on where you will mail your letters. Will you send them directly to your Pen Pal or will you need to mail them to a specific staff person to deliver? Be sure to also share your return address information with staff.
Step 3: With your club, determine how often you would like to write letters.
Step 4: Start writing! Be sure to be conversational and ask questions about their day or ask about their hobbies and interests. Tell them a little about yourself. You can write about your personal interests and hobbies, offer an encouraging or uplifting quote, or tell them about your involvement with Civitan. See the Letter Writing Etiquette flyer for more suggestions.
Step 5: Mail your letter!
– Be sure to follow through on all planned letters. If you promise to write and send one letter a week, make sure you stick to that schedule. Make it a part of your routine so you never forget!
– Be adaptable and get creative! Have fun with your letters. Try drawing a picture, send a special homemade card, or write a uplifting quote on the envelop flap.
– Follow up with the staff person your coordinating with to see how residents or clients are enjoying the letters. Ask them for ideas on how you can get creative with this project.
You may consider asking community members and local stores to donate blank cards, envelops, or stamps. Be sure to write a thank-you letter to anyone who supports your project. You can find sample thank-you cards you can easily print from home under Toolkit Resources above.
This project does not require sponsors.
If you are seeking donations of supplies, consider sharing a post on social media or in community bulletins.
Click here to review the Civitan International Guidebook: Protecting Vulnerable Communities.
Complete any paperwork, background checks, and/or volunteer trainings required by the partnering organization.
Be careful not to share any personal contact information with your Pen Pal.
Get the organization’s consent before mailing any items aside from letters and materials for your Pen Pal to write back.
Only write letters to individuals approved by the partnering organization. If a client or resident at the organization would like to receive letters, ask them to contact the staff person coordinating the project.
Before sharing any project stories, names of clients or residents, or information from letters on any personal or Club social media or with local news media, be sure to get consent from the partnering organization. Ask before taking and sharing any photos.
Additional Safety Precautions
Here are some additional safety precautions to consider to support social distancing practices.
All letters should be mailed and not hand delivered.
If your club is accepting donations of stamps and blank cards, set up a drop-off box that can be checked regularly that ensures social distancing is being practiced.
This project should not require extended insurance coverage beyond general liability provided by Civitan International.
Champions of Service Spotlight: Palmetto Civitan Club
The Palmetto Civitan Club members have been writing letters to individuals living in residential and assisted living facilities through their version of the Pen Pal project called Notes of Cheer. The club has encouraged Civitan and non-Civitan members in their community to give back by writing notes. They have provided instructions on what to include in their notes and developed strategies for how to deliver notes while maintaining social distancing. “Our purpose in writing these letters is to make residents of Lexington Assisted Living, and the group home we support, to feel loved and remembered. They cannot have visitors at this time, so they are very lonely. We want to make a difference in their lives!”