Pen Pal Program

Back-to-School Isn’t Just for the Kids

For many of us, there are such great memories connected with school supply shopping, picking out the perfect outfit for the first day back, catching up with old friends and adding new ones, meeting classroom teachers – all experienced against a backdrop of cooler mornings and busier calendars. We never forget the sounds of crowded hallways, the smell of crayons or the perfect taste of chewy, fresh-baked peanut butter cookies from the cafeteria.

Those remembrances tend to be quite vivid, making it easy to recall exactly what it felt like to be a child returning to school, even decades later. For the last ten years, a dedicated group of BTV residents has not only enjoyed reliving their own bygone school days when each new academic year starts – they get very busy making wonderful new memories starting in September, with a Butterfield Elementary School class of approximately 25 second-graders.

The Butterfield Pen Pal Program is one of the most meaningful ways BTV residents are able to make a lasting contribution back to the Fayetteville community, supporting its most precious resource: children. Every summer, resident and retired teacher Linda Hayes begins encouraging her neighbors to consider serving as a pen pal for a young student – and then she tirelessly keeps things organized and moving throughout the year.

Nancy Garner, who volunteered with elementary-age children even before becoming part of the BTV

Pen Pal Project, said, “I just enjoy being around children. Many of these kids don’t have grandparents near them, so they have limited contact with older people. I think it’s mutually rewarding.” In addition to the important academic skills the program reinforces, Nancy recognizes the socially beneficial aspects it enhances. “I FIRMLY believe that our world is becoming very artificial with too much cell phone use and believe we all need more “face-to-face” contact. I think it’s been very helpful for the shy children who now know that we are safe to talk with.”

The overall program is designed to improve the children’s reading and writing skills over several months, but the volunteers also work extra-hard to create memorable holiday celebrations for their young friends. Those residents who aren’t ready to make a months-long commitment of regular activity still have multiple opportunities to participate by helping with biannual ice cream socials, as well as ensuring financially needy Butterfield Elementary children outside of the program also receive gifts at Christmastime.

Jennifer Condron, the second-grade teacher for the BTV Pen Pal Program’s annually adopted class, said it best, “This program has been life-changing for all involved, and is the favorite activity for my students and parents each year! ‘Grandparent’ relationships developed while working on classroom standards create lifetime memories. It’s a great community program to give each student one more person
who cares about, invests and cheers them on in their education.”