With quarantine slowing down most of our lives, Jessica David and the What Cheer Writers Club are teaming up to bring back a favorite old pasttime: writing letters. That’s right, drop your smart phone and step away from your email, they’re bringing back old-fashioned communication — and I hope a plethora of gorgeous stamps — through Dear Rhode Island.
Jessica David came up with the idea when the COVID-19 crisis shut everything shut down. “During the pandemic, I’ve been writing more letters. It’s such a gift to spot a handwritten envelope in my mailbox! I’ve realized how delightful it is to get to know someone even a little bit this way. It reminded me of PVD Pen Pals, a similar effort from several years ago. When I realized there was no local pen pal matching service in existence, it seemed like a fun and easy thing to do. While this doesn’t solve the many serious issues our world and communities are facing right now, our hope is that a point of connection is a small but important thing.” She was then approached by What Cheer Writers Club after mentioning the need for a pen pal matching service in Rhode Island.
Jodie Vinson, program manager at What Cheer Writers Club, echoes this statement: “At one of the Club’s recent virtual coffee chats, members were remarking on how many long-distance relationships were being revived during this time of isolation, some of them through the old-fashioned art of letter writing. We realized that the physicality of the post can help us feel a person’s presence in a more tangible way than over a screen, and presence is what a lot of us are missing right now.”
And with that, Dear Rhode Island was born.
Prospective pen pals are welcome from Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Dear Rhode Island is also risk free in that every letter is forwarded through the What Cheer Writers Club, and your address will not be given out to your pen pal until or unless you feel comfortable doing so. Letter writers aren’t just writing in English, a Spanish letter-writing option is also included, and Jessica hopes to include more languages in the future.
There are additional restrictions; please note that you must be over 18 to participate and that you shouldn’t be a jerk to your pen pal. The DearRI website also outlines safety guidelines in receiving your mail during a pandemic.
Jodie continues, “The time, thought, creativity and effort it takes to write a letter, perhaps craft an envelope, address, stamp and send it, communicates a level of care that is also very much needed today. During this time when many of us are feeling cut off from community, Dear Rhode Island can help forge a sense of connectivity across our state.”
Signing up in simple. Go to DearRI.com and fill out a form (mine took me about 30 seconds). You must do this by July 1 to be in the first round of pen pal matching, though they are planning on having additional rounds in the future.