A long-time Newman resident who now resides in a Nevada senior living facility is making new friends from across the country through a viral pen pal program.
Lorraine Strazi, 91, was one of two residents featured in a media story on the program launched by staff members at Carson Valley Senior Living in Gardnerville, and is now receiving mail daily from across the country.
Adrianna Ward, life enrichment director at the center, said the program was started to help keep residents active and occupied and to allow them to forge new friendships in a time when visitation is restricted due to the pandemic.
The pen pal program all started with an early July social media post in which participating residents were photographed with a whiteboard that displayed their name and interests, and an invitation for readers to become a pen pal.
The post quickly went viral.
Ward said in early August that nearly 200,000 people responded, and that participating residents - including Strazi - have been getting mail on a daily basis.
“Lorraine is loving it. She is getting mail from all over the country, and also care packages,” Ward shared. “She will receive two to seven letters a day.”
Strazi said that she tries to respond to each letter, but that doing so was impossible. “There are sooooo many letters and I really lost count,” she commented. “It is honestly hard to keep up, but I love it.”
Strazi said that she has enjoyed the friendliness of her new-found pen pals, and learning about their interests and everyday lives.
“Some of them are really going all out,” she said of the writers.
Ward noted that as a precaution she screens every incoming letter to make sure they are appropriate before passing them along to the residents.
The program, she told a Reno television station, helps bolster the minds and spirits of residents during the pandemic.
And it is doing just that, Strazi reported.
“It cheers me up and makes my day,” she commented. “It gives me a sense of purpose.”
Those interested in becoming a pen pal can visit the Carson Valley Senior Living Facebook page.