SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A three month long pen pal campaign connecting high school students with residents at two senior living facilities launched this week.
Summer Dolotta, the creative organizer behind the program, is a ninth grader at San Marcos High School. She said she and her mother got the idea from a similar program in another state.
"I originally thought the program would mostly benefit the seniors in this time of isolation," Summer told NewsChannel reporter Beth Farnsworth. "But, it's turning out that they have so much to pour into their letters and have a lot to offer that it's really benefitting both."
A small group gathered, physically distanced, on an outdoor patio at Garden Court Thursday afternoon after a temperature read.
"Look at this! Cute little bunnies and a corgi," said Dorothy Dearman, showing off a letter she received Thursday. "I've got the two nicest little girls, so active and adorable. I just love 'em"
So far, nearly two dozen high school students have been matched up to more than a dozen residents at Garden Court and its sister community, Gardens on Hope.
"I think this is one way that elders can share their knowledge and maybe some wisdom onto another generation," said David Anderson, a resident at Garden Court.
David said he's got three pen pals and had just finished responding to one of the letters.
"I've really connected with David actually because I just love seeing all of his adventures," Summer said. "He went on safari in Africa and I also like his love for the world and just seeing things function in the amazing ways it does."
David shared that he's been on 87 safaris; he hopes to make it 100 by the age of 100. He's still got a ways to go.
Summer said the pen pal program will run on a "pretty tight schedule" for 12 weeks, maybe longer. She said she and her mother, Theresa, are "gate keepers" of the letters.
"We pick them up in person every weekend and send them out or hand-deliver them."