South Orangetown Middle School National Junior Honor Society members are taking action to help reduce feelings of isolation experienced by local seniors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NJHS Co-Advisor Kerry Beckmann first approached Blauvelt-Orangeburg Senior Club President Joe Moehrle with the idea. “I asked if cards and notes from students would be something the seniors would appreciate–something to bring them a bit of cheer and normalcy,” she explained. “Many aren’t able to make use of technology to stay connected and they’re isolated.”
The Blauvelt-Orangeburg Senior Club has roughly 70 members who regularly attend weekly meetings, according to Moehrle. “Kerry has worked with students to create holiday cards for our members over the years,” he said. “It’s really a nice thing that the children want to write to us and connect.”
NJHS Co-President Jamie P. (pictured) jumped at the opportunity to get involved. “I love this project because in a time where everyone is trying to cope with the sense of loneliness, it feels good to know that my connection can put a smile on someone’s face,” he said. “This project connects with the five pillars of NJHS and what we work to accomplish at SOMS because it requires us to be empathetic and look beyond our devices. It also requires character and leadership. Elders are an important part of any community and we are giving back and supporting them through letters and kind words. I hope that we can put more smiles on people’s faces.”
For the past week, NJHS members have begun to email draft letters to Beckmann for review and clearance before mailing them to Senior Club members. The project has already expanded to include residents of Sunrise of Old Tappan, thanks to SOMS parent and Sunrise Senior Living employee Tracy Fishel.
“These letters are meaningful because during this challenging time the residents are not allowed to have any visitors and they can feel quite lonely. They are in their apartments for their protection,” noted Fishel. They are used to seeing many students who volunteer here and this is a great way to keep them connected.”
Her son Ben, also a NJHS member, agreed. ““For years, I have watched my mom go to work at an assisted living community. I’ve visited her many times and have had the chance to talk to some of the seniors living there. If a letter will help put a smile on their faces, then count me in.”
A visit to a senior living home, through Girl Scouts, also motivated NJHS member Sarah M. to get involved. “I know how interacting with kids makes seniors happy and excited,” recalled Sarah. “Since they can’t meet us in person, writing a letter is the next best thing. Many of them live alone, so it is important for us to let them know that someone is always thinking about them. Writing these letters has helped me give back to the community. It makes me feel happy knowing that someone’s day could be a little brighter from the letter I wrote.”