Connecting People with Purpose - Celebrating 50 Years of Volunteering


Did you know that there is a National Day on Writing? It was developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) to reinforce the importance of writing instruction and practice at every grade level. Kylene Beers, past president of NCTE, wrote, "Writing, more than any other intellectual endeavor sharpens our thinking. Yet, in too many schools, writing is not about thinking but about copying; not about creating but about editing; not about persuading or telling or sharing or clarifying...".

In 2017, as an effort to support our local area schools, the Senior Corps-RSVP project sponsored by HOSC developed an Intergenerational Pen Pal Program. This program allows Senior Corps-RSVP members to engage in an exchange of hand written letters with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade bilingual and English language learners (ELL) at Jane Addams Elementary School in Palatine and Tarkington Elementary School in Wheeling. In supervised environments, Senior Corps-RSVP volunteers and students work independent of each other to respond to exchanged letters. At the end of the Pen Pal program year, the students and senior pen pals participate in their only face to face meeting and learn more about each other as they work together on a service learning project that will benefit a local nonprofit organization.

Writing letters combines telling, sending, receiving and reading stories and creates a continuing cycle for learning and improving skills. Dr. Brenda Hicks wrote on her website, "... (All) kids are fascinated by the mail carrier and the fact that a box on the street or inside an apartment complex fills up every day with paper and envelopes. Combine interest with a touch of the unknown, and you have the makings of a great (creative) adventure." 

Below we highlight the key outcomes of the Intergenerational Pen Pal program and some of the testimonials from teachers and Senior Corps-RSVP members who serve in this program.

If interested, sign up to become a participant in the Senior Corps-RSVP Intergenerational Pen Pal Program.

Sincerely ,
Jordan Friedman
Executive Director, HOSC

"From my perspective as a senior and volunteer, it is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the life of a young person. The time requirement is minimum and the payback is huge. No preparation is required. Show up...take a pencil, a piece of paper and start building that friendship." -Senior Corps-RSVP Pen Pal Janet Isaacman

"I am enjoying the Pen Pal Program because besides the obvious exercise in writing (which is an all-but-lost art nowadays, I fear), it is providing both the students and the seniors with a sense of adventure."-Senior Corps-RSVP Pen Pal Mary Ellen D'Amato

"What a wonderful experience meeting my students today and completing the service learning project. My two girls were delightful. I will miss writing to them." -Senior Corps-RSVP Pen Pal Paul Alfassa

"I only have positive things to say about this wonderful program. My students and I greatly appreciate all that HOSC and the Senior Pen Pals do to make this happen. I have seen so many of these students grow throughout the year with the help of the Pen Pals. We cannot wait until next time!" -Jane Addams 3rd grade teacher, Caitlyn McNally

Jane Addams teacher Caitlyn McNally is shown with the 49 Jane Addams 3rd and 4th grade students and 8 of the 12 adults participating in the Senior Corps-RSVP Intergenerational Pen Pal Program. The Pen Pals met and thanked each other for participating in the program and worked on a service learning project called Bags of Kindness.
Intergenerational Pen Pal Program Outcomes
  • 26 Senior Corps-RSVP members volunteered as Pen Pals 
  • 71 bilingual or ELL 3rd, 4th and 5th graders participated in the program
  • Over 400 letters were exchanged
  • As a result of the Service Learning projects:
    • 40 Jars of Kindness made at Tarkington were delivered to the Wheeling Food Pantry 
    • 75 Bags of Kindness made at Jane Addams were delivered to the Elk Grove Township Food Pantry
F Y 2018-19 data

HandsOn Suburban Chicago
Connecting People with Purpose

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