Lenape High School students and Laurel Brook staff members show off some letters

Writing a letter has become a lost art in the digital age. It’s much easier to frantically tap away on a keyboard than it is to put pen to paper. At least that’s probably what many high schoolers would tell you. 

However, students at Lenape High School in Medford, NJ, showed that the pen is mightier than the keyboard when they sent 300 letters and art pieces to Laurel Brook Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in nearby Mount Laurel through the Letters for Rose program over the year-end holidays. 

Soon, the students will meet up with their new friends in person.

“We’re looking forward to having those students come in and physically meet with our residents, spend some time together and enjoy the letters,” said Jessica Saracen, community relations director at Laurel Brook. “And it’ll be wonderful for the residents to get to meet some of the students who took the time and the effort to create those letters and pictures for them.”

Founded to combat loneliness among seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Letters for Rose is a charitable organization that is active in more than 20 states which connects elderly nursing home residents with teenage volunteers. While the letter exchange was a big success for the Lenape chapter, they will be back for the aforementioned celebration before Valentine’s Day. Not only will it provide residents some much needed fellowship, it will also be an opportunity for generations to commingle.

“It’s important for [residents] to [realize] you can learn a lot from the younger generation. And likewise, the younger generation can learn a lot from older generations,” said Saracen, “Many residents don’t have a lot of family around, so having that engagement from the younger generation [has] been beneficial for them.”

With Valentine’s Day approaching, the friendship formed between Lenape High School and Laurel Brook shows that love doesn’t always come in a box of chocolates or bouquet of roses. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word to make someone’s day. Or, in some cases, artwork. 

“One of the students painted a sunset and one of the residents asked us to frame that. He put it directly across from where he fits in his recliner and he says, ‘I look at this every day, and I shut my eyes and pretend that I’m on vacation,’” said Saracen. “It’s a daily reminder that someone cares. Someone is thinking about you, and that you mean something to many people.”