New SLICE series Crafting Compassion bridges gap between students and community

Notes to Neighbors pen pal program reaches out


Katherine Camarata, Staff Reporter

The SURC pit was filled with the sound of pens scratching paper as students participated in the Notes to Neighbors pen pal program on Jan. 13. 

With the ongoing complications of the coronavirus, outlets for expression and community outreach are vital. The Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement (SLICE) department is seeking to fill this need with their new series of programs called Crafting Compassion.

Notes to Neighbors kicked off the Crafting Compassion series with a heartwarming start. This was the first of many Notes to Neighbors events that will happen every other Thursday at 2 p.m. in the SURC pit, the next one on Feb. 3. 

Letters written for the program are sent to two places in Ellensburg: The Trellis Center, a recreational facility serving adults with developmental disabilities, and the Adult Activity Center, a recreational facility serving adults who are fifty and over. 

“One of my students had the idea to do a pen pal event,” Manager of SLICE Margaret Rooyakers said. “A lot of these populations were having great support at the start of the pandemic, but since it’s been … ongoing with no ending really in sight, a lot of that interaction has kind of fizzled out. We wanted to create that community and connect our students with those populations.”

Most attendees wrote two letters, hoping to connect with two new friends they have never met before. 

“I was really excited to come because I really like writing letters and receiving letters,” Sami Walters, a junior psychology and sociology major, said. “I definitely am going to come again so I can respond to someone, hopefully.”

SLICE provided colorful construction paper and stickers featuring various animals to decorate the letters and seal the envelopes. 

“I think it’s good to just relax and write and get creative and decorate,” freshman in theatre studies Carolyn Randles said. “A lot of people want to do that and don’t have the outlet, so this is something structured and they guide you through it.”

A paper filled with prompts was provided, suggesting that students could talk about media they enjoyed or their hobbies. Randles chose to add a unique twist to her letter. 

“I drew something in the letter itself,” Randles said. “I drew an original character that is half alligator and half snail called the ‘snalligator.’”

After students wrote their letters, they handed them in for SLICE to deliver. 

“Our hope is that once we deliver these letters and we get to pick up those responses, we’ll start to build those more meaningful conversations and get deeper connections with the recipients of the letters,” Rooyakkers said. “My goal would be that we have the students enjoy it and come back to the next session.”

Walters and Randles both planned to return for future events and recommended that other students join the Notes to Neighbors program.

“I think that more people should come,” Randles said. “I’m sure it’s much appreciated by the community we are reaching out to. I’m glad Central is being mindful.”