Katie Resnick has three pen pals who live less than two miles from her house.
“It’s about bringing senior citizens and grade school kids together to create connections, respect and understanding,” says Katherine Baronet, a founder of the Bridge the Gap program that brought Katie and her pen pals together.
Bridge the Gap was started two years ago by a group participating in a leadership course. The program received non-profit status about five months ago.
Bridge the Gap partners Lakewood Elementary third-graders with Vickery Tower residents.
Groups of students visit the retirement community about five times during the school year to participate in craft projects, games and other activities. At the end of the school year, the students stage a show and reception for the Vickery Towers residents at the school.
All of the activities are geared toward prompting interaction between the children and the seniors, Baronet says.
“It’s very sweet,” she says. “I see people’s hearts opening up.”
Katie says she has forged friendships with two of her pen pals. She regularly visits them to play games, take walks or go to the movies.
“Every time we go over there, everybody is smiling and saying, ‘Hi, how are you,’” Katie says. “It’s fun.”
Although Katie has grandparents of her own, her interactions with the Vickery Towers residents have taught her a lot about respecting and understanding older generations, says her mother, Nancy Resnick.
“I had no idea when this started how special it would be,” she says. “It’s so simple, but it means so much.”
More families are separated by distance than they were in the past, says Vickery Towers resident Terry Edmonson, which results in many seniors not having children in their lives.
Edmonson writes and e-mails several children from the Bridge the Gap program.
“For me, having 9-year-old children as pen pals is like having surrogate grandchildren or great-grandchildren,” he says. “It’s a very important experience to be around these children. It’s very special.”
Baronet says Bridge the Gap operates on a small budget and depends on volunteers and donors to succeed. In hopes of expanding the program to more Lakewood schools, the organization is holding a Texas Hold’em and Wine Tasting fundraising event Sept. 24.
“Ideally, in a perfect world, we’d love for people to take this program and start it in their own neighborhoods,” Baronet says.
The event will be 8-11 p.m. at Times Ten Cellars, 6324 Prospect, in Lakewood. It will feature poker, a wine tasting, silent auction and entertainment. Tickets are $30 per person or $50 for couple.
For tickets, call 214-826-9905. For information, visit bridgethegaponline.org.
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