WELLSBORO — Several weeks ago, the Gazette reported on the Pen Pal program at Broad Acres Skilled Nursing Facility in Charleston Township. Since then, residents at Broad Acres have been flooded with letters from all over the United States and abroad.
Bethany Schweigart, director of business development at Broad Acres, said, “We have been so blessed with the number of letters received. and work every single day at responding to every one of them. Each has received up to 60 letters; between all the residents in the program, we’ve received close to 300.”
Schweigart bought a U.S. map to keep track of where the letters come from. “We have hit every state except Iowa, Wyoming, New Mexico and Kansas, “ she says. “We’ve received letters from Canada, and one resident, Nancy, received a letter from Europe, which thrilled her.”
Hazel B. is a Broad Acres resident and a retired school bus driver.
“This has been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “I got about 60 letters – I have five or six right here in my hand. People are sending me pictures of their kids, their dogs; I try to work every day to answer them all.”
Hazel actually reconnected with an old friend through the Pen Pal program.
“I had a wonderful close friend named Vickie in Wellsboro for years. She was a nurse. Well, then I moved to Florida and we lost touch, but she heard about the Pen Pal program and wrote to me, and I wrote back, and we’re in touch again.”
Schweigart said, “Hazel cried reading the letter and I had tears with her. It was amazing to have someone reconnect after all of these years. If I could pick one rewarding moment, it would be that one.”
If needed, the residents get assistance from staff to write return letters.
“Hazel talks, and I type every word she says,” Schweigart said. “Sometimes she’ll say, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t say that – don’t write that!’”
Schweigart noted that some residents who were hesitant to join the Pen Pal program have reconsidered, and that more interested residents are joining this week.
The Pen Pal program is still accepting letters and cards from would-be correspondents. If interested, simply address a card or letter to Pen Pals, Broad Acres, 1883 Shumway Hill Road, Wellsboro, PA 16901. Staff will forward the mail to an appropriate resident.
The Pen Pal program is done with full consent of the residents involved and does not violate HIPAA regulations meant to protect their security and safety. Cards are held for 48 hours and packages for 72 hours, in accordance with current safety guidelines.