'We've gotten so many more letters': Raeford retirement home sees global response to pen pal program

RAEFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Open Arms Retirement Home issued a call to action several weeks ago for pen pals for residents during this pandemic. Since our original story, the response has been nothing short of amazing.

"I enjoy getting them letters from people. I enjoy reading them," said 88-year-old resident Betty Bohannon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced staffers to implement intense visitor restrictions to protect elderly residents. That's meant no outside contact, just phone calls and window visits.

"It's been hard. Can't get out. Can't go no where. Can't nobody come see you," said Bohannon.

The Pen Pal program has served as a glimmer of hope. Residents now anticipate when the mail arrives and others who weren't originally interested initially in participating have signed up. The story has had such a big impact and its reached people from all 50 states, the United Kingdom and even Italy.

"We've gotten so many more letters. We've gotten gifts, had residents get hats, gift baskets, candy, lotions. Anything you can think of. They've been so grateful," said Sierra Brown, who is the activity director.

According to Brown, she's received letters from people thanking her for starting up the pen pal program for residents who miss their families like Ms. Betty.

"I appreciate them taking time out to write me," said Bohannon.
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