FAIRFIELD — A revived lost art brought Angel Cueva, 8, and Beth Riess, 78, together last week, along with scores of others for spaghetti and meatballs at Paradise Valley Estates.
Third-graders from Laurel Creek Elementary School met Tuesday for lunch with residents of the retirement community after the two generations traded letters as part of a pen pals program that began at the start of the school year.
Angel’s correspondence included his catching crawdads and a question for Riess: What is her favorite sports team?
The 49ers, Reiss answered in her letter.
Instagram, Snapchat and emails take notice. All those electronic words and photos haven’t ended – and have perhaps instead enhanced – the humble, low-tech written letter.
Sara Snyder, who teaches the third-grade class, spoke about the magic that follows when letters arrive at the school from Paradise Valley residents.
“It’s like Christmas morning,” Snyder said. “It’s an hour of excitement.”
“They love it,” she said of the children.
So do people who live at the retirement community. Some are former teachers who thought about what a third-grader would be interested in reading in a letter.
The children, who received ballpoint pens that also work as a flashlight, brought stuffed animals and homemade bookmarks for Paradise Valley residents.
Emily Robinson, who Tuesday sat next to her pen pal Hannah Macak, 9, spoke about how nice it was to meet Hannah. Robinson, who was an only child and doesn’t have grandchildren, said meeting Hannah was wonderful.
Denise Flowerday, life enrichment manager at Paradise Valley, approached the school about her pen pals plan. Sometimes it’s nice to have words on a piece of paper that you can read again, she said.
“It’s a lot more personal,” Flowerday said of a letter rather than an electronic message.
Moreover, the printed word is a chance for children in elementary school to show what they know to an older generation.
“A lot of them,” Flowerday said of Paradise Valley residents, “are very surprised with how smart the kids are.”
For Melody Lopez, mother of 9-year-old Gabriella Lopez, the written word on paper is how people learn.
“We don’t do computers,” she said.
The Internet just arrived this month at the family home and when the Lopez children return from school, they do their homework on paper and read books. That helps explain why Gabriella writes to family members – and why she was able to write a letter about Mount Rushmore, China, Europe, Thailand and Japan to Paradise Valley resident Phyllis Riley, 81.
Those are all places visited by Riley, who wrote about her 6-year-old schnauzer-mix Dickens in her letter to Gabriella.
Gabriella isn’t all business in her letters. She also allowed how chocolate is her favorite ice cream flavor.
Riley told the third-grader she did a great job in her correspondence.
The pen pal program is a chance for them all to get together, said Riley, who lamented the lost art of letter writing.
Lisa Soldati, a teacher who helps mentor new instructors, said, “The thing I like the most is the bringing together of the two generations.”
“You see enthusiasm on both sides,” she said.
Flowerday is all for it.
Some people who live at the retirement community are reluctant to attend events, she said, but the letters from children brought residents to the casual dining room at Paradise Valley.
“They get dressed and they come and they’re having a ball,” the life enrichment manager said.
Flowerday as well found energy from the correspondence exchange. She was having what she called a low-energy day when it was time to take letters from the residents to the third-graders at their school. The joy the children showed in receiving the correspondence turned her day around.
“I walked away high as a kite,” Flowerday said.
Pizza is planned for a visit by Paradise Valley residents to Laurel Creek Elementary that may follow Tuesday’s lunch.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.