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Karla Ortiz's Fundraiser:

Neighbor to Neighbor Senior Citizen Penpal Project

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Karla Ortiz


Project: Neighbor to Neighbor
A Senior Citizen PenPal Program

With the baby boomers reaching retirement age long-term care faces increasing challenges. Our social system is not prepared for our aging population. There is a lack of resources to meet the needs of our seniors as well as a lack of professionals in the area of aging.
Growing old is something that we all experience every minute and second that passes. It is a difficult and, at times, scary process. Some of the biggest challenges are:
1. Lack of Mobility- It may be difficult for seniors to utilize public transportation. For some they cannot afford it. For others, there are either physical or cognitive restrictions that make it difficult to get around on their own. Many may not own vehicles or do not have license. It is also difficult with vision deterioration.
2. Lack of Access to Family & Friends- A hard reality of growing old is that everyone around you is also growing old. For many of our seniors their parents are not longer with us, their children have their own life perhaps in another state, and many of their childhood friends are either at a distance or have passed away. Some seniors do not have a family. For seniors it is difficult to socialize and meet new people compared to younger generations. Not a lot of seniors have facebook, know how to send an e-mail, and have a hard time affording a cell phone.

Both of these challenges tend to lead to isolation and loneliness. As a caseworker I’ve heard many of my clients say: “I don’t have anyone, sometimes it’s good to just find someone that will just listen to me and know that I exist.”

This project was created because of those words that I’ve heard countless times.

To find someone that will listen to what our seniors have to say, someone that will also share his or her experiences and acknowledge the existence of our seniors.
Our project addresses both challenges of mobility and social isolation. For our seniors they will receive a starter pack with envelopes already addressed and with postal stamps. They will receive a set of pens and pencils as well as stationary paper. Our seniors will have the opportunity to fill in a profile talking about their interests, hobbies, and favorites across different areas. For our seniors that have a difficult time writing we will be integrating a new form of penpal program: voicemail to letter.

Seniors will be able to call our phone line that is forwarded from ring central and leave a voicemail dictating the contents of the letter to one of our volunteers. Our volunteers will then write the letter and forward it to our senior’s pen pal. This will help a large population of our seniors that love receiving letters but often have a hard time responding it.
For our volunteers they will have the option to fax or e-mail their letter if they are running late and believe that they will not meet the letter deadline. We ask from our volunteers to send a letter bi-weekly for a commitment period of at least 3 months. After three months both the seniors and the volunteers will be re-matched. Our volunteers will have the option to remain with their initially assigned senior and agree to an additional 3 month commitment.
The reason behind the re-match is to protect the emotional health of our seniors. Asking for long term commitments from volunteers can be difficult depending on the volunteer. It is also difficult for some of our hardworking volunteers to maintain the commitment for a long period of time due to other responsibilities. An initially established rematch will just introduce a new neighbor to our senior, rather than to tell the senior that the volunteer does not want to continue correspondence.

Confidentiality will be protected at all times. Only the first name and the age of both parties will be shared. All mail will go through the P.O. Box of the project and will not be disclosed. Sensitive information will not be disclosed at any time and both parties will sign an agreement in order to protect each other.

What the money will be used for:
1- P.O. Box
2- Ring Central membership ( redirect calls to a personal phone to protect privacy as well as a system of voicemails and fax to have an efficient communication system)
3- Domain name for a website
4- Hosting for the website
5- Envelopes, stamps, & postage
6- Starter kit for all seniors
7- Advertisement costs.

• The funds should be enough to fund around 60 senior starting kits as well as the rest of the expenses for at least a year. Further contributions that exceed our goal will be used to increase the amount of seniors participating.
Est. total: $1, 400.87
That is about $18 per senior to cover the costs of the program for at least a full year. That’s about $2 a month to bring a smile to the face of senior who wants to know that someone, somewhere, is thinking about them.
Help us fill the gap of communication and share the message that growing old does not mean you will be alone nor forgotten.



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Karla is working on selecting a charity so you can support Neighbor to Neighbor Senior Citizen Penpal Project.