Whether it’s a pages-long letter or a quick postcard letting someone know you’re thinking of them, there’s nothing better than opening your mailbox to find a note just for you. The art of card- and letter-writing is something that’s seen a resurgence in response to the ongoing pandemic, and the WPI community recently took up their pens (not to mention colored pencils, crayons, and markers) and partnered with Elder Services of the Worcester Area (ESWA) to spark a little old-school letter-writing joy of their own.
What eventually grew into a campus-wide initiative had small seeds that began with director of community relations Katie Bilotta. She and her husband participated in a past iteration of a card-writing campaign held by ESWA for Meals on Wheels recipients during the holidays, and thought it would be another great way for WPI to continue their connections with the local Worcester community.
“It seemed like a perfect project, and a great effort to try and help move forward,” she says. “Students couldn’t go out and do community service this year, so I thought, 'how could we serve the community in a safe way?' This seemed like a simple and fun thing to ask students and other members of the community to do.”
Bilotta brought the project to associate director of Residential Services Matt Foster, who kicked off the initiative within WPI’s residence halls, coordinating with residential staff to hold programs with their residents.
“We had a decent amount of participation there, but I wanted more,” Foster explains. He then emailed all residential students, shared the details with the Student Activities Office (who then passed them along to Greek Life chapters), and finally, harnessed the power of Potpourri to involve the entire WPI community.
The result? Around 130 participants came together to write over 800 cards that were delivered to Meals on Wheels recipients.
“It was great,” Bilotta says of the efforts. “Just knowing there was a connection between WPI students, faculty, and staff and members of the community who were also isolated during this time was really meaningful.”
Foster agrees, adding that his favorite part of being involved in the project was seeing the WPI community’s excitement at their ability to support those who might be feeling alone. “Even after things begin to return to some level of normal, we plan to continue with this project as a collaboration in the future,” he says.
While one of the bright spots of receiving a card or letter is the chance to write back, this initiative featured one-way communications, something that Bilotta believes adds to the impact of the decision to participate. “It’s about giving to give, and hoping that what you do brings a smile to somebody’s face on the other side.”
- By Allison Racicot