Pen pals bring smiles

Brothers Jude and Logan open their pen pal mail.

One of the children at Blue Monarch developed a pen pal relationship with a family from Texas several years ago. These first letters of encouragement and support were the beginning of a flourishing pen pal initiative.

Blue Monarch serves women battling drug addiction and provides a safe environment in Coffee County for the women and their children.

Reading the letters they receive from pen pals is one of the favorite activities for the children, according to Susan Binkley, founder and president of Blue Monarch.

The pen pal program began in 2015.

“We had a young girl living here in 2014 who was featured in one of our newsletters for getting a 100 on a test at school,” Binkley said. “A couple in Texas sent a small gift to congratulate her and this eventually developed into a rich, pen pal relationship. This girl would be so excited every time she heard from them – but she had two siblings who did not have that same experience.”

So, when Binkley saw the value in this correspondence, she decided to make sure every child had a pen pal. That’s how the program was launched.

Receiving a great response, the program has seen an immense success.

“Because we have way more pen pals than we have children, we have developed “Pen Pal Clubs” for each child,” Binkley said. “Otherwise, it would be impossible for each child to keep up. So, each child has lots of pen pals but we have found a way for them to communicate with their club as a group and not necessarily as individuals, even though they do respond to specific questions or comments as much as possible. In the beginning of this process the pen pal receives a photo of the child along with a description of the child’s interests and favorites.”

The letters bring smiles to children’s faces.  

“They absolutely love hearing from their pen pals, especially when the communication involves something very specific and unique to the child,” Binkley said. “For instance, we had a boy interested in marine biology and he was so excited to receive an educational book about fish.”

 

You can help

“This program has grown way beyond anything we ever imagined,” Binkley said. “In fact, we get pen pal applications every day, and we have a volunteer who manages this program for us. However, the cost of maintaining this program has also grown beyond what we anticipated. It would be great if folks could help us with stamps and materials, such as colorful paper, envelopes and craft supplies.”

Binkley encouraged the community to support this important initiative.

“One of our goals at Blue Monarch is to take the valuable opportunity we have and broaden the horizons of the women and children we serve,” she said. “We feel the more they are exposed to, the less likely they will return to their old lifestyles. Because our pen pals extend to people around the globe, our kids are learning about cultures way beyond our own community. Even city life compared to our own country life is eye opening for some.”

 

Hunger for hand-written letters

“We have been astounded at the popularity of our pen pal program,” Binkley said. “I believe it speaks to how hungry people are for old fashioned, hand-written communication. Clearly there is something still missing in all our devices have to offer. We have found that the precious children we serve are not the only ones being blessed in this process, and this is why people are reaching out to us from all over the world.”

For more information about Blue Monarch, call 931-924-8900.

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