Words to the wise

Jacob Cramer knows that receiving a handwritten letter can help someone feel connected, especially if they’re lonely.

Cramer is the founder and executive director of Love for Our Elders, a nonprofit organization that seeks to combat isolation in senior communities through letters, videos and stories.

“Letters have such a big impact,” he said. “I was 13 years old when I started writing letters. I try to write a letter every day.”

Cramer, 20, who is also a Yale University student, started Love for Our Elders in 2013 following the death of his grandfather. At the time, Cramer was volunteering at a senior living community, where he enjoyed spending time with residents but grew concerned when many would confide that he was their only visitor in months.

At home, Cramer felt compelled to write letters to his older friends. Since then, he has embarked on a worldwide mission to alleviate loneliness among seniors.

In 2020, Love for Our Elders mailed more than 90,300 letters to 952 senior facilities in the United States and other countries, including Australia, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Malawi and the United Arab Emirates.

“We’re a youth-driven team fighting loneliness with love,” said Cramer. “We are the biggest fans of USPS.”

The initial days of the coronavirus pandemic challenged Love for Our Elders when nursing homes were unsure if physical letters from the outside could pose a health threat to residents. By April, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization indicated there was no evidence that the virus spread through the mail.

Once deemed safe, Cramer said, there was an influx in letters, as well as an increase in letter-writing volunteers, which the organization calls “kindness ambassadors.”

“Many people were feeling helpless during the pandemic. But many realized that you can control being able to give and positively impact someone’s day,” he said.

Staffers at senior centers appreciate the letters, too.

“Love for Our Elders is not only bringing letters to residents, it is providing hope and comfort. This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen,” said Tracy Aiello, a staff member at a facility in Toms River, NJ.

Maddie Goff, a staffer at a senior community in Lenexa, KS, added, “I’ve been struggling to get my residents to have fun as they have been sitting in their rooms with zero visitors allowed, even family. This means so much to me. My residents needed something just like this to brighten their days.”

While Cramer is learning virtually on the Yale campus in Connecticut, his father, Barry, helps him in Cleveland, where Love for Our Elders is based.

Barry picks up the organization’s mail from its PO Box at the Lyndhurst Mayfield Post Office. He said employees there are “always courteous” and typically have the organization’s daily mail “ready for pickup before I even get to the counter.”

He’s also a fan of the self-service kiosk.

“I can go in 24/7 and prepare packages for mailing. The address lookups are great, and I feel comfortable that the packages will get to the correct destination,” he said.

Another initiative for the organization is promoting Feb. 26 as National Letter to an Elder Day.

The younger Cramer said the holiday, which he has registered with the National Day calendar, celebrates sending an elder a handwritten letter of love.

The date is also his grandmother’s birthday and the time of year is significant, he said, because “after the holiday season, it can be particularly lonely for seniors.”

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.

Stamp Out Hunger

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) won’t hold its annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive as planned this year, but it isn’t giving up on the cause.

Rather than leaving bags of food by their mailboxes on the second Saturday in May, postal customers will be urged to visit a dedicated page on the union’s website, nalc.org/food, where they can find local food banks that need their financial support.

“Our help is now needed as much, or more so, than ever,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said in announcing what is being called the Stamp Out Hunger Donor Drive. Rolando emphasized that the union “is committed to conducting the food drive when it is safe to do so.”

This is the second year NALC has moved the drive online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, this year, NALC headquarters will match contributions from any of its branches when that donation is made from a branch treasury to a local food bank.

Branches should mail proof of the their donation, as well as information on the food bank, to Stamp Out Hunger Donor Drive, NALC, 100 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20001.

In the cards

“News Quiz” is a weekly feature that lets you test your knowledge of recent Link stories. The correct answers appear at the end.

1. Fill in the blank: The Postal Service recently mailed employees a postcard to promote (blank).

a) The organization’s new delivery vehicles
b) The organization’s new 10-year plan
c) All of the above
d) None of the above

2. Which organization operates the Caring Letters Program to curb suicides among former members of the military?

a) U.S. Department of Defense
b) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
c) U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
d) U.S. Postal Service

3. About how many people in the United States are involved in distracted driving crashes each day, according to the National Safety Council?

a) 700
b) 7,000
c) 70,000
d) 7 million

4. True or false: Postal Service employees can use the IT Self-Help/ServiceNow Blue page to resolve many basic computing problems.

a) True
b) False

5. Where did Gary Thompson and his late father, Warren, deliver mail as rural carriers for a combined 75 years?

a) Marlton, NJ
b) Pittston, PA
c) Savona, NY
d) None of the above

Answers: 1) b. 2) c. 3) a. 4) a. 5) c.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.