Indica Berry, biology senior, writes a letter to nursing home residents. Berry’s nursing home that she was assigned to is Alderbrook Village in Arkansas City. (Lauren Sieh/Staff photographer)

By Lauren Sieh
Staff reporter

Each year homecoming is kicked off by a service project, but this year was different.

As homecoming was approaching, SGA did not have a service project lined up. Fortunately, Emily Berry, communication senior, had an idea called Letters of Encouragement.

Letters of Encouragement is centered around student’s writing letters to local nursing home residents in the Kansas and Oklahoma area.

During school breaks, Emily works for her hometown’s nursing home in Cimarron. Last semester when the college transferred to remote learning, she witnessed the nursing home go into lockdown in March, months before the statewide lockdown was implemented.

Nursing home residents have not had the communication and interaction as they would usually do, said Emily.

Emily said the letters are there to “comfort them throughout this whole year. These letters are a way for those residents to get the interaction with people outside that are not just their family and staff.”

Anjaih Clemons, director of campus life, said “Some of them may not have even received letters or anything. It’s just kind of to say that we’re thinking of you, we’re here for you, we love you and we care for you.”

Nine groups ranging from athletic teams to student organizations participated the event. Each group was given a specific nursing home. The nursing homes assigned to the groups were based on the size of the nursing home and group.

Indica Berry, biology senior, is one of the students that participated in the service project. Emily Berry and Indica Berry are not related to each other.

Indica wanted to participate in Letters of Encouragement because she felt like it was a good project considering residents have not had much interaction with others since the pandemic hit.

“It felt like it was a way to uplift them during this time of a pandemic,” said Indica.

Both Emily and Clemons wanted this service project to be a learning experience for the students. They hope that students will continue out this tradition established.

Clemons said, “I want students to learn from this that regardless of what is going on in the world, regardless of the things that limit you or can limit you, you can still find creative ways to still give back and encourage other people when they are in need.”

Emily said, “There are still people that are struggling. We may be out of lockdown and still limited, but there are still those individuals that have been in continuous lockdown that can’t see their loved ones.” 

When talking about continuing letter writing, Emily said, “I hope that if they enjoyed it, they would reach out to their local nursing home from the town they are from or some other nursing homes and just ask ‘Hey, I want to be a pen pal and write to this person.'”

Indica said when she graduates this semester and heads back home she will look for a nursing home to begin letters of encouragement to.