A simple letter that included a plea for friendship blossomed into a lasting relationship and the launch of an organization aimed at ending loneliness for senior citizens (video below).
Wanda Mills, a Park Hills, Missouri, resident, sent a letter to her neighbor, 37-year-old Marlene Brooks, about 5-months ago. It read: “Mrs. ? Would you consider to become my friend? I’m 90 years old, live alone, and all my friends have passed away. I am so lonesome and scared. Please, I pray for someone. Signed, Wanda Mills.”
The correspondence seemed to be random, but upon inspection, Brooks discovered that Mills lived across the street, two doors down. Brooks had been unaware that anyone was still living in the house.
As it turns out, Mills had been home-bound for seven years, due to trouble with walking and the inability to haul her oxygen tanks around. Her husband and sister had both passed away, as had one of her sons. Two other children, one who lived out of state, and a third who lived nearby, didn’t visit often.
Although Mills did have caregivers, they weren’t friends, and the letter was an attempt to reach out and make one. Brooks responded, and started out by taking cupcakes to Mills. That act began a friendship that would change both lives.
Brooks began by visiting Mills and has continued to do so now that she’s taken up residence in a nursing home. Brooks and her family reportedly visit Mills four times a week.
Speaking to CBS News, Brooks said she regretted not spending enough time with her own grandmother, who died alone in hospice care. Her relationship with Mills felt redemptive and led her to think about other ways to improve the lives of people like Mills.
In that spirit, Brooks recently formed an organization called Pen Pals for Seniors. According to the group’s Facebook page, it seeks to “create a nationwide network of support to end isolation and loneliness, thereby improving the quality of life for seniors.”
“I mean, it could be any of us, and nobody should feel that way, ever,” Brooks said.
Mills is thankful for the friendship she’s enjoying, and is confident that the relationship had divine origins: “God sent her,” she said of Brooks.
Pen Pals for Seniors has reportedly received 6,000 responses in its first month alone, with around 500 letters having been exchanged. With the holidays coming, there is much more in the way of connections to be made.
“We are always looking to expand our network of volunteers who are available to reach out to our senior citizen community,” the Pen Pals for Seniors website states. “If you have the time and compassion to make a commitment to be a Pen Pal to a senior in your area, please get in touch.”
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