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Amy Garza wins Tempe Connector Award for Pen Pals for Seniors Program

Post Date:11/07/2019

Amy Garza awardTempe Elementary’s Pen Pals for Seniors program will be getting an exciting boost, thanks to funds recently awarded from Tempe Community Council (TCC). 

In October, TCC conducted their first Connector Award to provide a platform for people to come forward with solutions and ideas to combat social isolation and loneliness in Tempe. The award ceremony took place on October 23, and heard from 9 presenters. 

After applying and presenting, Amy Garza, visual communication specialist senior and TD3’s Pen Pals for Seniors founder, was awarded $5,000 to continue to grow and enhance the program. 

With the extra funds, Garza plans to focus on expanding the program to individuals who do not live in a senior center or who do not have access to a facility where a program like this is organized for them. The funds will also be used to purchase stamps and envelopes, funding field trips to connect the pen pals face-to-face, and creating writer starter packs – a kit of notecards, stamps, pens and pencils to encourage letter writing. 

“It has made me so thankful to hear from people participating in the program that it has made an impact in their life. Receiving this award will allow this program to do more and was a nice validation,” Garza shared.

Though Garza asked for just over $3,000, the committee believed so much in what she was doing that they increased her awarded funds to $5,000. 

“Receiving more than I asked for was surprising, but was a nice confirmation that what we are doing with this program is adding value to the community,” Garza said. 

In its third year, the program has pen pals from Arredondo Elementary, Hudson Elementary, and Ward Traditional Academy. Westchester Senior Center, Oakwood Creative Care, and Friendship Village are current participating senior centers, with Elmcroft Senior Living soon to be added. In the 2018-2019 school year, there were 172 pen pals (60 seniors and 112 students) and 800 letters exchanged. Pen Pal event

Garza and her late grandmother wrote letters back and forth for years, and is part of what inspired the program. She is grateful to be carrying on her grandma’s legacy here in Tempe through the program.

“For every letter written, every letter opened and read, every interaction, every face-to-face meet up means one less lonely, isolated senior or student in our community. This program has touched more lives than I ever imagined,” Garza said. 

 “In many parts of the world, loneliness and social isolation are being considered a public health issue, and so many municipalities already know strong resilient communities are an effective way to tackle the issue,” Tempe Community Council said about the purpose of the Connector Award. 

Tempe Community Council is investing up to $50,000 to help bring ideas to preventing loneliness to reality. Tempe Elementary is proud to offer the Pen Pals for Seniors program as one of those solutions. 

For more information on the Pen Pals for Seniors program, reach out to Amy Garza (amy.garza@tempeschools.org).

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