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Pandemic Pivot brings Gen Zs and Baby Boomers together in unique way

Consumer Science Hospitality and Tourism Management

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Written by: Denise Buhrmester and Shannon Stemick

Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) students continued to deliver and receive joy during the fall 2020 semester through a letter writing project conceived at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by instructor Keith Molter. This time around, even students beyond Molter’s classes were moved by the amount of happiness a letter can deliver.

DeVonn Hamilton, a Hospitality and Tourism Management major, became a St. Mary Healthcare Center pen pal.
DeVonn Hamilton, a Hospitality and Tourism Management major, was inspired to join the letter writing project.

When DeVonn Hamilton, a senior majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM), read about the project in Life 360 magazine and realized how meaningful the letters where to both sender and recipient, she reached out to Molter to see if she could also send letters to the residents of St. Mary Healthcare Center.

Jonni Goodman, a Selling and Sales Management major, inspired her Alpha Phi sorority sisters to create cards and letters for nursing home residents.
Jonni Goodman, a Selling and Sales Management major, inspired her Alpha Phi sorority sisters to create cards and letters for nursing home residents.

Jonni Goodman, a sophomore studying Selling and Sales Management in the Division of Consumer Science (CSR) and a student in Molter’s CSR 28200 course, created brightly colored cards and drawings for the residents. When her Alpha Phi sorority sisters saw what she had done, they became inspired to create their own cards and letters for St. Mary’s residents as well as for residents of other nursing homes throughout Greater.

Emma Snider, a Selling and Sales Management major, pitched the letter writing project to members of her Alpha Xi Delta sorority.
Emma Snider, a Selling and Sales Management major, pitched the letter writing project to her Alpha Xi Delta sorority sisters.

When Emma Snider, a junior studying Selling and Sales Management and a teaching assistant in Molter’s CSR 28200 class, told her students about the immensely positive effect the letters made on St. Mary’s residents, they were surprised that something seemingly so small could make such a big impact. Wanting to make an even greater impact on the lives of people living in Lafayette’s nursing homes, Snider pitched the project her Alpha Xi Delta sorority sisters.

A resident of St. Mary Healthcare Center with her letters.
A resident of St. Mary Healthcare Center with her letters.

Ryan Bonebrake, a sophomore majoring in Financial Counseling and Planning and a member of the Army National Guard Indiana, discovered first-hand the immensely positive impact the letters made on the residents of St. Mary’s. Bonebrake was assigned to St. Mary’s as part of a National Guard initiative to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Indiana’s long-term care facilities. During his first week at St. Mary’s, he noticed a significant number of handwritten letters addressed to the residents. Bonebrake soon realized the letters had been sent by his Purdue peers. His front row seat allowed him to experience the amount of joy these letters brought to the residents. When talking about this experience, he stated, “In times like these, a small act of kindness can go a long way and could make a difference that somebody needs in their life.”

Nearly 200 personalized cards and letters were sent to 71 residents of St. Mary Healthcare Center during the fall 2020 semester.
Hundreds of personalized cards and letters were sent to 71 residents of St. Mary Healthcare Center during the fall 2020 semester.

The response from those on the receiving end has been heartwarming. Sarah Gray, Life Enrichment Director for St. Mary Healthcare Center, remarked, “The staff at St. Mary Healthcare Center wants to express our sincere gratitude to the students in Mr. Molter’s classes. The total number of letters for the semester is in the hundreds!” We are humbled by all the love and support from these students. We feel blessed to have been able to partner with Purdue and look forward to continuing to do so in the coming semesters. These letters are truly making a difference in the lives of our residents; and for that we are thankful.”