News & Stories

NEOMED Students Lift Spirits through Letters during COVID-19 Pandemic

Residents of nursing homes were some of the first people to be hit with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, as most were forced to close to the public and eliminate visitors. This left many senior citizens lonely, having lost their connection to loved ones and the outside world.

Rising second-year College of Medicine students Carla Baaklini and Ashley Labette wanted to find a way to help lift their spirits, but weren’t sure how, until Labette remembered an email recruiting volunteers for Serenity Hospice in Stow, Ohio. She reached out to Serenity’s volunteer coordinator, Terri Frey, with an idea: to write letters to the hospice residents, which is something she had done as an undergraduate.

Labette and Baaklini teamed up and got to work. When they received information about the patients, they found common interests to write about. Baaklini knew one patient had fond memories of traveling to Europe, so she shared her own experiences from her recent travels there. Labette often finds herself writing about her dogs, sports and cooking.

Although the patients are unable to write back, Frey speaks with them and their families and has received much positive feedback to pass along to Baaklini and Labette.

“I am happy to be able to participate in such an opportunity, especially because I think of my own grandmother, who I know would enjoy receiving a hand-written letter from someone. That’s something that is not very common these days,” said Baaklini.

“I’ve been hearing they really enjoy the letters and that it’s been helpful for them to reminisce,” added Labette. For both students, it has been gratifying to help people through the kind act of connecting.

brown paper envelope on table